The Wonder Years are a band that have been through a steady progression over their whole career. Earlier this month, they released their most astounding and accomplished body of work to date in ‘Sister Cities’, and are reaping the rewards for it. It’s a far cry for the band that had a beginning playing sweaty club shows and belting out pop-punk anthems, though some fans long for those years back.
Tonight, the band take to the stage on what is the final night of their UK tour to, in lead singer Dan Campbell‘s words, “Play more songs than we ever have throughout our entire career.”
Before they begin their emotional rollercoaster of a set, A.W.  take to the stage with their brand of heart rendering solo material. The whole set is based around A.W., a reverb packed electric guitar, and a bunch of cleverly written songs. Unfortunately, the set falls flat pretty fast. While A.W.‘s voice is truly beautiful and their song writing ability is there for all to see, the whole set drifts by without any noticeable stand out moments apart from the onstage anecdotes surrounding life in L.A and gender. The highlight of the set is when Campbell comes onstage for a rendition of their biggest hit, ‘New Love’, but otherwise the crow are flatlined.
As soon as The Wonder Years  take to the stage, that all changes. The band have given fans a treat on the tail-end of this tour by performing two different sets every evening; the first being a 9-song acoustic experience. Opening with ‘Local Man Ruins Everything’, the crowd suddenly comes to life, and Campbell‘s voice is barely audible.
The band skip through a plethora of tracks leading to arguably one of the biggest crowd participation moments of the night in ‘Living Room Song’. Despite the first set of the night being acoustic, it’s one of the most raucous in recent memory, and a testament to the way that the band can engage an audience, and really showcases The Wonder Years at their most vulnerable.
After a 20-minute long intermission, during which no one moves a muscle, the band return for set two. Opening with ‘Pyramids Of Salt’ is a brave choice and one the proves to pay off. The whole crowd are invested, the room erupts, and there’s not one person standing still. More new cuts in ‘It Must Get Lonely’, ‘We Look Like Lightning’, and ‘Raining In Kyoto’ sound monumentally huge. Campbell‘s relatability is present throughout the entire set, and it’s an endearing reminder that tonight’s heroes are also human.
Despite the lack of anything prior to 2011’s ‘Suburbia I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing’, the band reel off a career defining set that holds nothing back. Highlights of the night come in the form of the band’s more melodic tracks; ‘The Devil In My Bloodstream’ turns the crowd into a gospel choir and a band of brothers, so much so that it’s entirely possible the whole of Bristol heard the chant of “I bet I’d be a fucking coward.”
‘The Ocean Grew Hands To Hold Me’ caps off the end of the set, prior to the encore, of course, in unfathomable fashion. With the album only having been out for eleven days now, it’s incredible the amount of people that know every word and are literally screaming them to within an inch of their lives. ‘Passing Through A Screen Door’ and ‘Cigarettes And Saints’ finish off an evening that can only be described as flawless.
Even the band’s most old school fans would admit that tonight has been a triumph of epic proportions. Despite the lack of any ‘old’ material, the set had absolutely everything. Since releasing ‘Sister Cities’ the band have received incredible plaudits and gained a whole gauntlet of new fans, so expect venue stops to increase rapidly very soon.
Written by Jacob Eynon (@deadpressjake)
Founder & Editor for DEAD PRESS! | Atheist and antitheist. | Judge of the quick & the dead since 1989.