Music / Alt-pop

Review: Oh Wonder, O2 Academy

By josiah wong, Monday Nov 13, 2017

Returning to Bristol for the first time since playing Thekla a couple of years ago, it’s clear from the queue that snakes round the corner of the O2 that Oh Wonder have built a significant and dedicated fanbase. No mean feat for a band that only started in 2014.

Sigrid, a twenty one year Norwegian singer is first on the stage and the venue is already packed. Faced with such a large crowd at such a young age it’s a marvel that she has complete control over her live act. Her performance seems effortless, emphasised by her casual dress of a simple white shirt and jeans.

She performs a setlist that is made up of both upbeat club anthems and stripped back solos built around showcasing her powerful vocal chords. Dynamite, an acoustic ballad is a particular highlight, which causes the audience to fall silent to its crooning. The set closes with Don’t Kill My Vibe, the song that propelled her to international success, and it’s a crowd pleaser. The whole performance screams of a heavyweight pop star in the making and if you missed her tonight then you can catch her at Motion on March 17 next year.

While Sigrid more than left an impression it’s clear who the crowd are waiting for. Oh Wonder walk out onto what is one of the cleanest stages I’ve ever seen at the O2. Illuminated by towering lights that spell out OW, keyboardist Josephine Vander Gucht and guitarist Anthony West immediately walk over to the audience, smiles beaming.

Performing a setlist that completely covers both 2015’s debut and this year’s Ultralife the show is full of little surprises. Kicking of with extended version of Dazzle Me and Without You the crowd are already enamoured, yet Josephine seals the deal by announcing that after coming to university in Bristol “Playing at the O2 feels like coming home. I’ve been here like fifty times and it’s a dream to be playing here.”

Audience interaction is clearly important for them both and they take every opportunity to engage. With the excitability of a long lost friend Joesphine spouts anecdotes about texting the guy behind the counter at Yoyo Burger, and the magic bar and of first meeting Anthony by the very fire escape closest to the stage.

At one point somebody in the crowd shouts out something unintelligible and Anthony replies “Is that Bristol for something?” It becomes clear that this is an admirer from Japan and Josephine uses the moment to respond to him in Japanese. It’s in these moments when it becomes clear how they have managed to gain and keep so many fans.

If anything Oh Wonder sound better live than on their records, each song harmonising perfectly and giving Anthony more time to shine. This was particularly noticeable on their acoustic version of Midnight Moon and on Heartstrings when Josephine’s brother took to the stage with a saxophone to provide a version I’m sure many wish was on the album.

By the time the encore had finished they had worked through eighteen songs yet it was clear the many could have gone for eighteen more. With a night of upbeat, uplifting music and speeches telling us that “If you believe in yourself enough then anything is possible” it’s certain that Oh Wonder’s alt-pop is here to stay and their fans aren’t going anywhere either.

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