Live Review: Circa Waves, The 1865 Southampton, 8th February

Often likened to The Vaccines, The Strokes and The Kooks, indie-rock band Circa Waves became one the UK’s freshest acts after supporting The 1975 and The Libertines in 2014. In February, the Liverpool-born boys sold out their gig at Southampton venue The 1865 in the space of seven days.

The night was opened by Japanese support act ‘The Fin’ who, to put it briefly, were a bore. Their psychedelic sound was agreeable, yet they lacked stage presence and made no effort to engage with the crowd. Unlike Circa Waves, The Fin’s performances were excruciatingly slow – making them a questionable support act for such an upbeat band. Much to the benefit of Circa Waves, however, this made the apprehension of their entrance all the more exciting.

As Circa Waves strolled onstage, screams erupted to the rough electric guitar riffs of ‘Wake Up’, the band’s first single from their latest album Different Creatures which is set to be released in March. The dark lyrics of this opening single teased the crowd with what can be expected in their upcoming album. The red flashing lights created a sinister atmosphere to go with the track and whilst having played to an audience of 20,000 in London the night before, the band did not lack energy in the slightest.

The set list focused on the band’s classic tracks including nostalgic single ‘T-Shirt Weather’ which bears a classic 60’s surf-rock ambiance and traces the steps of the band’s teenage summers. ‘So Long’ balances boisterous drums with simple vocals, to tell the story of how powerful a woman’s love can be. A particular crowd-pleaser was ‘Stuck in My Teeth’ with the main line stating that the band are “a little too young with not enough time”. 29-year-old frontman Kieran Shudall seems to highlight the downfalls of youth moving too fast in the track, which bears more of a pop-heavy vibe than their other tracks, with bubbly tones and an upbeat tempo.

The performance of their second single ‘Fire That Burns’ – named “Hottest Record in the World” by Radio 1 in January – from their latest album was disappointing. Whilst the heavy chorus was adrenaline surging once the drums had kicked in and the band harmonized, Shuddal’s vocals during the verses were irritating, squeaky and boring.

The fresh new angle that the boys have taken with their sound bears similarities to Catfish and the Bottlemen – unique British vocals complimented by heavy drums and powerful riffs, but their previous records are softer and more inventive. During this show, the band only performed two new songs and so the unexpected shift in sound wasn’t too distracting. The band can be praised for being brave enough to infuse more rock into their sound, but it’s not a progression in any sense. Shudall states that the new material is about the demons he faces, but the band seem to have lost their authenticity in the process.

Despite the disappointment of the band’s change in sound, Shudall’s eccentric voice controlled the energy of the night. Whilst many rock bands tend to become messy as shows progress, Circa Waves maintained their stage presence in line with their clean-cut look: buttoned shirts, tights jeans and short, tidy hair. Their stage presence doesn’t quite tie together with their new-found sound, however – the band members barely moved position during the show.

The set was surprisingly short at 50 minutes, but the atmosphere was undeniable and Shudall’s unique vocals were powerful for the most part. Whilst he stole the spotlight, the band boosted one another very well. Their talent as performers cannot be faulted – they ooze aptness and excellence.

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