The support act – Birmingham alt-rock trio SHAAKE [7/10] – open the show brilliantly, with explosive guitar riffs, exciting rhythmic interplay and powerhouse vocals. The trio’s sound (albeit expanded by pre-recorded tracks of bass and atmospheric vocals) is much bigger than the sum of its parts. The female singer’s delivery was especially noteworthy, being powerful enough to sha(a)ke the walls, without compromising on tone. The band currently have no material online, but they are definitely one to watch for 2015.
The crowd tentatively moved toward the stage as Wild Child [8/10] saunter onto stage – the majority of the band barefoot – and launch into a surprisingly heavy version of ‘Living Tree’. As the band had pre-warned “if all you’ve heard is Pillow Talk (their charming acoustic ukelele hit), you’re in for a bit of a surprise”. The six-piece have an effortlessly saturated sound, and with some excellent drumming, they manage to really put the ‘rock’ into folk-rock. That’s not to say that the acoustic, intimate Wild Child that we have come to know and love wasn’t still present throughout, and whilst the opening band had struggled to really engage with the 20-person audience, the Texans seemed right at home. The band’s recent surge in popularity has meant that they are used to playing bigger shows in the States. However, the ever-modest folkers still seemed overwhelmed by the turnout, visibly grateful and surprised to have any fans across the pond at all.
In many ways, the intimate setting let the band really relax, and their set basically ended up as an interactive request show. Audience members would call out for their favourites, and the band would change the setlist at whim. The six-piece owned the stage, and was possibly the most relaxed gig I’ve ever been to. At one point, the bassist wandered off mid-song to have a chat with someone side-stage. Pretty rock n’ roll eh?
Wild Child radiate sunshine, rainbows and all things fuzzy; their Southern charm and buttery, bitter love songs are endearing and heartfelt. The dynamic chemistry between lead singers Alexander and Kelsey – who often turn to face each other when singing – is adorable, and the hilarious adlibs during ‘Someone Else’ including favourite “you’ve found someone else and she’s beautiful… the bitch” had the small crowd eating out of the palm their hands. The band’s stage chat was charming and funny throughout (which I feel obliged to say as they used one of my jokes from the earlier interview). Yes. They were very witty indeed.
It was a night of outstanding female vocal performances, and unsurprisingly, Kelsey Wilson’s melt-in-mouth singing was outrageously good and a definite standout. The sweetly-sung ‘Darling Divine’ was incomprehensibly and indescribably brilliant, sending shivers down spines and melting hearts throughout the Academy. That’s not to say Alexander Beggins’ soothing delivery was not up to scratch – quite the opposite – but it was Kelsey that stole the show.
Set highlights were ‘Silly Things’, ‘Pillow Talk’ and fast-paced, dark ‘The Tale of You & Me’, the latter closing the show with a climactic sing-along. Usually a gig is more entertaining and the crowd is more enthused if the venue is fuller, and admittedly at times – during the more upbeat songs – I did wish I was more immersed in a larger crowd (such as those they have been playing to in the States), just so my awkward minimal jiving was less noticeable. But for the vast majority of the set, the intimate, interactive nature of the show created a different kind of audience-band engagement, and it’s just a testament to the quality of the band that they can excel in either setting.