THE Wonder Years are a band that incite a particular passion in their fanbase; which gathered today is a diverse group; young pop punk fans gripped in the mires of adolescence, twenty-somethings drowning in beer and post-graduation worries and more. Our editor Will Stevenson went down to see.
Support comes from American Tiny Moving Parts, who smash out a strong, math-y emo set before a half sized crowd. Frontman Dylan Matheisen’s beaming grin and excitable attitude do more than enough to sell the band, never mind the stellar songs.
Next up are Trash Boat. The St. Albans group smash out a pop punk show that lies more on the side of “punk” than “pop,” with vocalist Tobi Duncan’s hardcore style bellow becoming much more intense live. Though this may simply be due to his singing talents being in need of some polishing for live shows, it somehow works to the bands advantage.
Final support comes from Canadians PUP. Though towards the end of their 11-song set it seems as though this could almost be billed as a coheadliner, the audience shows great appreciation for their thrashy punk tunes and shouts back every word.
Despite some technical issues early on rendering Steve Sladkowski’s guitar out-of-action for the first part of the set, the band continue on with some idle banter: “Ever want to see PUP as a three piece? Now’s your chance,” vocalist Stefan Babcock grins. Despite these issues, the band perform valiantly and get a deservedly fantastic reaction.
Then it’s time for The Wonder Years. “No Closer To Heaven,” is the first track of the set, as frontman Soupy walks out into the sparsely lit stage alone, with just an acoustic guitar, to a packed out audience already singing back every word. Soupy’s subdued, shaky voiced and emotionally charged singing draws the crowd into the set.
The Wonder Years live at the Manchester O2 Ritz. pic.twitter.com/WprQiSWpkk
— James Keir (@jk85) February 6, 2017
The full band emerge for an older track “Local Man Ruins Everything,” and the audience explodes into mosh pits, dancing and throaty and impassioned singing: the lyrics “I’m not a self-help book; I’m just a f***ed up kid,” particularly get fists raised and bodies flying.
The band do a phenomenally good job of sequencing the set. Placing the Greatest Generation track about his grandfather’s hospital stay, “Dismantling Summer,” next to “Cigarettes & Saints,” from last years No Closer To Heaven, which opens with lyrics referencing a funeral, makes each song hit harder than they do individually.
There’s a distinct emphasis on the No Closer material; they follow up the one-two punch of “Summer” and “Saints,” with another three new songs. For some fans this a blessing, but by the time “There, There,” rolls around punters are certainly ready for some older material.
They finish off with “Palm Reader,” which is heightened by giant, slightly out-of-place balloons and confetti, and “Passing Through A Screen Door.” After a laughably brief intermission (“We hadn’t even gotten off stage! Sometimes your boy needs a minute,” chimes Soupy) the band are back for the celebratory “Came Out Swinging” and the crowd are truly moving as one; every voice in the 1,500 capacity venue shouting along with the band.