Concert Review: Alvvays @ 9:30 Club (5/8/18)

Alvvays (Photo from FB @ALVVAYS)

Alvvays ends a seven week tour with a night at the 9:30 Club.

Working with a fairly consistent set list from recent shows, Alvvays put on a 17-song set that bounced between their two albums – Alvvays and Antisocialites – plus a couple other additions. The set list leaned slightly heavier on the newer Antisocialites, opening with “Hey”, and of the first 10 songs, only two were from their first album. The audience was completely on board, loving every moment of the show, from those newer songs to the older ones that closed things out.

That said, there’s electricity in the air when a band has a hit. A really big hit. They know it, the audience knows it, and everyone loses their mind a little bit when that song kicks in. I mentioned the so-close-to-perfect “Archie, Marry Me” in our Alvvays preview, and I’m not ashamed to say I felt the slight adrenaline rish, tiptoe stand when those guitar chords began ringing out a little more than halfway through the show. The room went wild for the song and the band played back every bit of energy.

The audience was a curious mix – an almost even split of younger and older adults. The skew younger made sense. Alvvays carries a youthful energy, even when singing through connections not made, lovers lost, and the disconnect between ambitions and reality. If you sing it all with the right beat, it can carry the day. The older crowd is harder to pin down. Is it the influences, the 60s west coast sound, the 80s feel, all combining together to be a modern act that a different generation can recognize pieces of an enjoy?

All that accounted for, the show hit all the right notes. The first couple songs (“Hey”, “Adult Diversion”) came out clean and loud, while the next (“In Undertow”, “Plimsoll Punks”) brought a denser wall of sound. Through a few of these songs, singer Molly Rankin kept her vocals pretty close in a clear range. It was odd to hear, until she noted mid-show that her voice was beginning to go, making the higher notes harder to hit. A moment of honesty, it better endeared the audience to the band.

The two men in the band (Alec O’Hanley on lead guitar and Brian Murphy on bass), through almost the entire set, faded into the background. They played well, but the three women owned the stage. Sheridan Riley on drums, Kerri MacLellan on keyboards, and Molly Rankin on vocals and rhythm guitar each held their respective places, bringing harmonies, energy, and charisma to the stage.

For encore, Alvvays pulled out “Blue”, an Elastica cover, and “Next of Kin”, a fan favorite, at least last Tuesday night.

And after all that – after an infectious night of music – I would be remiss to not mention their stage presentation. Not content with a scrim of a logo, or the band name writ large, Alvvays had what I can only describe as a distorted live feed of their show projected behind them. At first, it seemed like a playback of a previously recorded performance, but after a few moments, it became apparent that the projection was mimicking the performers perfectly. It would change angles, distort, focus on the mirror ball, and keep moving around. It wasn’t distracting, but it was interesting, a unique and clever way to reinforce their stage presence.

Alvvays’ music stands out. They play an interesting live show, both visually and sonically. The tour’s over, but pay attention for the next time they come around.


Adult Diversion
In Undertow
Plimsoll Punks
Lollipop (Ode to Jim)
Not My Baby
Saved By A Waif
Forget About Life
Your Type
Ones Who Love You
Atop a Cake
Archie, Marry Me
Pecking Order
Dreams Tonite
Party Police


Blue (Elastica cover)
Next of Kin

Author: Mathew Harkins

A writer and editor in Washington, DC.

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