Live Review: Alvvays w/ Major Leagues @ The Brightside
Alvvays singer Molly Rankin and keyboardist Kerri MacLellan were childhood neighbours. Maybe that’s why listening to their music might conjure up memories of cassette tapes from young girls’ bedrooms and floors littered with ‘he loves me, he loves me not’ flower petals. A sizeable crowd for a Tuesday night in Fortitude Valley was abuzz waiting for the Nova Scotian 5-piece, featuring guitarist Alec O’Hanley, bassist Brian Murphy, and drummer Phil MacIsaac.
“Supporting Alvvays on their national tour was Brisbane’s Major Leagues, who announced in their signature deadpan way that they were happy to be back on home turf.”
Alvvays (pronounced “always”, spelt “vv” for legal reasons) are making their live Brisbane debut with tracks from their 2014 self-titled album. The album is packed with lyrical explorations of relationship drama and emotions, and we were eager to see it translated into a live performance. Supporting Alvvays on their national tour was Brisbane’s Major Leagues, who announced in their signature deadpan way that they were happy to be back on home turf. Popular tracks like Someone Sometime, Endless Drain, and new single Better Off got the crowd warmed up for Alvvays’ similar surfy, sun-soaked sound.
A Celtic instrumental recording (possibly a nod to John Morris Rankin, frontman Molly’s father and a member of 90s Celtic sibling band, The Rankin Family) ushered Alvvays to the stage. The band stood drenched in colour and surrounded by jars of drooping daffodils, a white name-branded flag waving in the background. Opening with swirling, lo-fi jam Atop a Cake, Rankin’s impassive yet confident voice reverberated around the room. “We’ve been told this whole tour that you guys would be the best crowd,” says Rankin. She rocked a cool-girl stance complete with peroxide blonde hair and a fringed red Western shirt.
Next was melancholy and lovelorn track The Agency Group, followed by Next of Kin, a poppy, guitar-laced song about leaving a boyfriend to drown in a river. Next of Kin had the audience riled up and singing along in no time: “If I’d known you couldn’t swim/ We would never have gone in”. “I’ve created a monster,” Rankin said as she launched into Hey, a shimmery new track infused with the band’s familiar reverb-heavy sound.
Alvvays played four new tracks from their yet-to-be-announced second album: Hey, Not My Baby, New Haircut, and Your Type. The songs jazz up the band’s whimsical Camera Obscura-esque sound with an exciting sonic, layered development. The crowd adored the sweet, pining nature of Adult Diversion and Party Police, songs about longing to be noticed and begging someone to stay. A fitting and upbeat cover of Kirsty MacColl’s He’s On the Beach left the setlist feeling complete.
“Amongst kissing couples and flying limbs, she urged Archie to forget his student loans, skip the floral arrangements, and just get married.”
The audience waited all night for Alvvays’ popular track Archie, Marry Me. By the end of the show, their eagerness was palpable as they begged for the song between tracks, and Alvvays didn’t disappoint. Amongst kissing couples and flying limbs, she urged Archie to forget his student loans, skip the floral arrangements, and just get married. It was the highpoint of the evening, the crowd singing along with Rankin to every “Hey!”
Listening to Alvvays is like catching a glimpse into Rankin’s diary. There’s a sense of nostalgia and wistfulness to her voice as she sings of subway crushes, lost chances, post-university stress, and graduation into the scary world of adulthood. With their personal, touching, and often humorous songs of love, heartbreak, and inebriation, Alvvays on a dusty night was the perfect farewell to summer.