LIVE: The Wonder Years @ Electric Ballroom, London

By Aaron Jackson

It feels like only yesterday that The Wonder Years were gracing the stage at Slam Dunk to play a bumper set of their first two albums. Plenty has happened since then, not least of which is the release of their latest output ‘The Hum Goes On Forever’. Technically the first show on the UK stretch of this tour cycle (not counting a rescheduled show in Bournemouth), the Lansdale six-piece greet the Electric Ballroom with a fresh-faced demeanour that belies the emotional heaviness of the themes explored in their new material.

It’s a cut from ‘The Hum Goes On Forever’ that they elect to kick off their set with. ‘Low Tides’ is met with a rapturous response from the audience. A borderline absurd amount of finger-pointing syncopated with shouts of “I’m growing out my hair, ‘cause who gives a shit” is just the sonic catharsis that British crowds need right now. This was the first of many massive choruses that fans reciprocated with huge volume and passion. Another standout was during ‘Pyramids of Salt’ in which the first cry of “I drew a line in the sand” was astonishing.

Speaking more broadly, the new material sounded colossal in this live environment. The ensemble, made up of drums, bass, three guitars, keys and vocals is, simply, very very loud. Their noise stretched to every corner of the venue and, for all the fine-tuned polish of the production on ‘The Hum Goes On Forever’, the body and beef of live instrumentation make for a better overall listening experience than any band could ever hope to achieve through a studio output.

That said, The Wonder Years are equally capable when lowering the tempo and volume to curate a more intimate vibe. The highlight from the mellower moments of the set was ‘Summer Clothes’, once again pulled from the brand new album. The performance was beautifully observed by the crowd, with an ocean of phone torches lighting up the room in lieu of the traditional lighters. Similarly, while ‘Flowers Where Your Face Should Be’ stunted momentum in the set perhaps a tad too early, it was nonetheless delivered with tremendous affection and with unmistakably authentic emotion.

Never ones to shun their older material, the setlist was dotted with plenty of hits to satisfy fans of every release in The Wonder Years’ discography. Notably, around the midpoint of their performance, the one-two punch of ‘There, There’ followed by ‘Passing Through A Screen Door’ knocked the crowd back nearly a decade to the era of 2013’s landmark ‘The Greatest Generation’. Fingers crossed that some ten-year anniversary festivities are on the horizon.

Bowing out, as expected, with their biggest song as an encore, Campbell joked about the predictability of leaving the stage only to return 30 seconds later to play another song or two. He argues that the band are getting on now, approaching their late thirties, so let’s cut them some slack. Regardless, ‘Came Out Swinging’ was delivered with the same vim and vigour of a band 20 years their junior. This is true for the entirety of their performance, and no doubt will continue to be the case for many years to come.

The passion that fuels this band’s craft shows no signs of fading. Long live The Wonder Years.