By Callum Baker
Photography: Georgina Hurdsfield
Friday the 13th wasn’t all bad omens and misfortune as it saw the return of illustrious pop-punk veterans The Wonder Years to Manchester at the wall-to-wall sold out Academy 2.
Joining them was emo/folk/pop singer-songwriter AW who was tasked with kicking off the evening’s proceedings. It would be worth considering the impressive feat of engaging with a crowd of people who have a) seldom heard any of your material and b) doing so without the accompaniment/safety net of any other band mates. This was adeptly pulled off by AW (a moniker derived from birthname Allison Amling Weiss). The LA singer worked through a stripped back indie pop set that whilst was a solid performance, brought little to the table artistically. Nonetheless, their music never seemed to be written with the express intention of reinventing their genre but rather refining an already tried and tested approach, and this was certainly achieved. The result was a charming and stellar showcase of their ability as a songwriter and performer.
It probably warrants addressing the elephant in the room left in the wake of Sorority Noise’s departure from the tour. There was clearly a conflicted feeling amongst fans when noting the anticipation for their performance as well as the complexities of the reasons for their cancellation. In order to soften the blow of this development, The Wonder Years stepped up to perform a set of acoustic renditions of some fan favourites as well as others that didn’t make the cut for their headline set. TWY demonstrated a great level of adaptability with their transition into acoustic terrain, though this isn’t necessarily uncharted territory for the band. This provided an opportune moment to perform the ‘Living Room Song’, an already acoustic number that would perhaps otherwise be ill-fitting with their broader setlist, going down particularly well with fans. The band exhibited versatility and a lot of prowess with this set, though arguably at the penalty of making their headline appearance somewhat anti-climatic.
Gig goers would really have to have developed a robust sweet tooth to sit through two The Wonder Years sets, but despite hailing from what many may consider a largely juvenile genre/scene, the band have shown the capacity for maturity in their 13 years of growth, placing themselves at a similar status to the likes of New Found Glory.
After having been onstage a mere 20 minutes before, The Wonder Years made their return and played a set of picks from across their back catalogue, with a particular emphasis on their newest release Sister Cities. The band didn’t shy away from alluding to the fact that this was the second of two performances, which showed a welcome level of self reflection as well as an honest digression from what otherwise had the potential to be a somewhat self indulgent show. The performance itself was incredibly tight and all the members demonstrated a commendable level of musicianship. The crowd engagement felt candid and honest, which is certainly paramount when operating in a genre so focused on positivity. It’s clear 13 years as a band hasn’t been wasted and tonight’s performance proved that.