Tonight is a family affair. It’s the first date of a whistle-stop four-pronged UK tour for The Wonder Years, who have had to push back bigger plans until early next year due to a pair of marriages and other looming commitments. A surprise set from Trash Boat (AKA Barracuda Deathwish) kicks things off, with the band leaning heavily on their shiny, Dan Campbell produced new album. Clarity’s Adam Parslow is an old friend, their adventures inspiring part of ‘Hostels and Brothels’ while Laura Stevenson’s history is also intertwined with The Wonder Years. Her bare-bones honesty is front and centre, even when half of the headline band join her on stage (a favour she later returns for ‘The Devil In My Bloodstream’). It’s a show full of friends, bonded together by music.
From the opening swell of ‘Brothers &’ ‘Cardinals’, those connections electrify the room, bringing everyone in. The nineteen-song set takes time to indulge the past, ensuring nobody is left out, but is furiously forward facing at the same time. The Wonder Years have spent the past decade learning how to balance sincerity with big moments and tonight – from the bounce of ‘There, There’ through the fire of ‘The Bluest Things On Earth’ until the arms aloft purge of ‘Came Out Swinging’ – it’s bigger and grander than anything we’ve seen yet. Dan Campbell leads the charge, all uncontrolled enthusiasm and full-bodied passion, but he shares the spotlight with every member of the room.
There’s a speech denouncing Trump (“I want to assure you that the free-thinking people of the United States aren’t represented by that bright orange pumpkin mother fucker. We have lost friends. We have lost loved ones. Mother fuckers like that will not continue to bury my friends”) which builds in pointed assurance. A security guard makes it on stage for guest vocals while TWY’s tour manager spends the whole gig making sure the constant ebb of crowdsurfers-come-stagedivers land safely. The band’s ‘everyone is welcome, everyone is safe’ messages in full-effect from every angle.
Their visit might be fleeting but it’s resoundingly affirming. The Wonder Years promise to return for bigger things in February, and why would you doubt them? “We wanted every single one of you to walk out of here thinking this is the best fucking show you’ve ever been to,” declares Dan. As with everything they do, it’s hard not to find truth in their words. It’s bands like The Wonder Years that represent us.