Live Review: The Wonder Years // Manchester Academy – Manchester

Just a week on from the release of their 6th album ‘Sister Cities’, an album all about life on the road, Pennsylvanian The Wonder Years found themselves away from home again with a bumper set of 25 songs.

Originally, the show was supposed to feature a set from Sorority Noise but following accusations made against  their lead singer this week, they were no where near the tour. Out of those awful reports, The Wonder Years took the opportunity to do something special by supporting themselves with an acoustic set.

The extra set allowed The Wonder Years to show off some rarities like ‘Living Room Song’ and the acoustic version of new song ‘The Ghosts of Right Now’ as well as giving a live airing to the reimagined tracks which featured on last year’s ‘Burst and Decay’ EP. Tracks like ‘Don’t Let Me Cave In’ took on a whole new level of heartbreak with Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell’s porcelain vocals while ‘You In January’ was joined by opening act A.W. to give the song a more delicate texture.

Re-emerging for their second act, The Wonder Years came with a completely different tone as the moody, bass heavy, weight of ‘Pyramids of Salt’ began to rumble. The new hit acted as an immediate marker of the new ‘Wonder Years in ‘Sister Cities’ with that darker, more unforgiving, sound rumbling under the surface. But, as the chorus erupted and Soupy with his arms outstretched screamed “I drew a line in the sand with these worthless fucking hands,” there was that familiar gut wrenching passion shining through.

In the early part, the set focused around the more robust sound signalled since the release of their fourth album ‘The Greatest Generation’ with tunes like ‘Thanks For Ride’ and ‘Cul-De-Sac’ sitting comfortably alongside the fresh cuts of ‘It Must Get Lonely’ and the devastating ‘We Look Like Lightening’.

“I never thought we’d have older songs,” admitted Dan Campbell as they threw back to their pop punk roots with the huge back to back of ‘Coffee Eyes’ and ‘Came Out Swinging’ which sent the crowds into raptures. As if to purposely polarise those early hits, they rolled out new lead single ‘Sister Cities’ and the driving opening track ‘Raining in Kyoto’ together.

In a set littered with massive songs, The Wonder Years saved a few of the best for the end with ‘There, There’ and ‘Cardinals’ with ‘Passing Through a Screen Door’ coming in the encore but, prior to their return onstage, it was the euphoric ‘The Ocean Grew Hands to Hold Me’ that felt like the fitting ending to the set.

It was a show, in classic Wonder Years fashion, where they raised to the challenge and pulled if off expertly. In both sets, the two pillars on which this band have built themselves stood proudly: heart on sleeve lyrics and explosive arena-sized rock music. While most of the scene that they have come from can get in the bin for their actions in recent years, The Wonder Years should be celebrated as all that’s good in rock music.


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