By Jake Paterson, Co-Deputy Music Editor
Wet Leg need no introduction. As a post-ironic band centred around short-snappy punk anthems set for the viral age, their debut record captured a moment of pure magic. Months later, the formula seems caught in its own caricature, calling out for an injection of new life.
I first saw Wet Leg in a festival tent in May, after tracing each one of their single releases since ‘Wet Dream’ dropped into the airwaves before their debut Wet Leg hit the racks. They were impossibly fun. I remember bouncing around to album cuts as energetically as their breakout ‘Chaise Longue’, caught truly in a jubilant celebration of the start to the summer.
They are a band addictively easy to love, or equally as easy to hate for their overnight success. Now a household name, it’s impossible to not know almost all of the bridge to ‘Too Late Now’, particularly if you’ve graced Pressure at Thekla at any point this year. Nothing can be denied about their ability to churn out hit after joyful hit.
Therefore preparing to see them on a drizzly and dark Monday in November, I was expecting a glorified singalong of sorts. The songs and lyrics have dropped into the subconscious memory of most, waiting for someone to lift the latch and reach into and grab them out again.
What I was not expecting was to be met with the average age of 50 and groups of families with children. For a band supposedly driven through their viral success, widespread appeal was never far beyond the corner. Perhaps the influence of 6 Music, perhaps a sparkle in the eye to relive the glory days of 90s alt rock in a new and safe atmosphere, the crowd screamed safe and comfortable. The Academy was packed, however, and everyone had certainly warmed up their vocals in the car on the way down.
The group from the Isle of Wight have never had the largest personalities and have occasionally seemed just grateful to ride the wave of their sudden success. Lava La Rue’s supporting set embodied this independent and edgy atmosphere I was hoping would transfer into the headline set.
Yet, the energy of the whole show managed to not extend beyond a few pockets of movement. Having waited for the band to come on stage late, shuffling along to T Rex’s ‘I Love to Boogie’, they rolled straight into ‘Being in Love’ and ‘Wet Dream’ with slick precision. Sounding cleaner than anything, the crowd were loud in belting the lyrics back, but stock-still in mutual appreciation.
Expanding the set into new territory, we were treated to three new songs: ‘Obvious’, ‘I Want to be Abducted (By a UFO)’ and ‘It’s a Shame’. ‘Obvious’ was the standout for its more alt-leaning traditions, but Rhian’s classically trained vocals came out clear in ‘I Want to be Abducted’ – its folk-orientation made for one of the few moments of awe.
The set was ultimately confounded by the long periods of tuning between tracks, destroying any sense of flow between what should have been a short and sharp hour-long show. Yet the band weren’t out of lighthearted tricks up their sleeve. After a layering of vocal tracks amounting to a THX intro-esque noise which transitioned into a happy birthday singalong for Rhian’s sister’s birthday, the band launched into a cover of IDLES’ ‘Never Fight a Man With a Perm’, a sharp and exciting nod to the four shows in Bristol that they’ve played this year.
Shooting through ‘Angelica’, ‘Too Late Now’ and ‘Chaise Longue’, the climax of the show was frought with accuracy and brilliance – if the tracks are a little past their eminence.
It was a show of conflict then, surmounting in a 60 year-old man fainting during the bridge to ‘Ur Mum’ with everyone screaming as he was helped up and out of the crowd by security. Wet Leg’s songs put you in a place of complete familiarity, but the audience and the efforts to avoid the kitsch of their debut slightly hold back what could have been a rapturous night.
Leaving to George Michael’s classic ‘Careless Whisper’ was a reminder to never take this band too seriously. It was fantastic fun.
Featured Image: Hollie Fernando, Black Arts PR
Have you seen Wet Leg live?