Live Review: Alvvays @ The Roxy, October 23, 2017
On a preposterously warm late October evening, inside a hot sweaty Roxy, Alvvays played a winning set of their refined pop to a diverse sold-out crowd (Who knew so many bro types were into Alvvays?) The uniquely spelled Toronto band–now a 5-piece: Molly Rankin (lead vocals/guitar), Kerri MacLellan (keyboard/backing vocals), Alec O’Hanley (lead guitar), Brian Murphy (bass guitar) and newest addition Sheridan Riley (drums)–was seemingly taken aback by a boisterous audience, demonstrative in their love, raced through an hour-long set of their well-crafted tunes set to insightful lyrics.
The headline L.A. show, a late addition to their ongoing tour in support of their excellent second album, Antisocialites, follows their local appearance at Music Tastes Good festival in September. The near instant sell out at the ticket on-sale took is a testament to their particularly fervent fan base.
Antisocialites, now out in the world for about two months, is builds on the song craft, lyrical nuance and recording production of their esteemed 2014 self-titled debut. We get the bulk of both albums tonight. Their newest singles “In Undertow”, “Dreams Tonight” and “Plimsoul Punks” are among the highest highs of the main set, while old favorites “Next of Kin” and “Dives” are saved for the encore. “Marry Me, Archie” in particular is a huge sing-along.
Though Alvvays is very much a band, as might be expected Rankin, as lead singer (and lead between-song banterer), is largely the focal point of the show, at front and center. Her voice has that extra something – steady and elegant, alternately joyous and melancholy–a quality that separates it from the ordinary pack. The band as a whole are fine, competent players, if not all that energetic on stage, apart from Riley bashing away on drums. The muted stage lighting and background projections of swirling shapes and patterns casts them all in a fitting dreamy, hazy wash, in sync with the music.
Their sound touches on familiar pop subgenres, all those semi-useless terms–C86, jangle, twee, dream, indie, noise, shoegaze–yet manage to defy cliché, never lingering in one mode or tempo too long, no song any longer than it needs to be. They manage to almost always work in a fresh flourish or two–a couple of reaching vocal notes, a unexpected chord shift, a counterpoint bass or keyboard line here and there–that make a given song memorable. They take the stage to Abba’s “Arrival” instrumental which might be an insight into their ambitions. Let’s see how close they get to those lofty heights; their trajectory is only pointing up ward.