The fact that Slow Pulp and Alvvays’ concert occurred as planned is remarkable, considering the bands faced an accident on the way to Madison and a last-minute venue change because of the weather. The show was planned to take place on the Terrace, but was moved indoors to Shannon Hall. Understandably, the performance started an hour late, yet the bands were still determined to deliver a top-notch performance despite the unfortunate circumstances around their first tour stop.
After waiting outside in the cold, fans shuffled in – a fittingly indie crowd clad in rolled-up beanies, turtlenecks and Dr. Martens. Despite Wisconsin’s chilly fall weather, they chatted enthusiastically in anticipation for the show.
Slow Pulp took the stage to a warm welcome from the crowd. The band is now based in Chicago but began right here in Madison. It was a homecoming for them and bittersweet emotions were visible on all of the musician’s faces.
Slow Pulp’s setlist was brief but featured every facet of their sound. They opened with “Idaho,” the biggest hit from their latest album, “Moveys.” Their tunes were emblematic of the wistful, contemplative dream pop Slow Pulp does best. They managed to ramp up the energy with each consecutive song, working in some thrash-worthy guitar solos from Henry Stoehr that surprisingly meshed well with lighthearted vocals.
The energy peaked when Slow Pulp pulled out “High,” an anthem for anyone who had a date with Mary Jane go south. The track’s driving chorus caused everyone in the audience to switch from swaying to headbanging.
The crowd had a chance to perform, singing “Happy Birthday” to lead singer and guitarist Emily Massey, who was grateful for the rendition on her special day. Finally, Slow Pulp said goodbye with “Montana.” Massey incorporated a soulful harmonica solo into the song’s finale that amplified its melancholy mood.
After a brief intermission, the six members of Alvvays filed onto the stage to an ethereal audio introduction consisting of echoed chanting behind a rolling electronic buzz. The band subtly mixed their guitars into the synths’ sound to transition to their opener, “Pharmacist.” The chorus featured background vocal echoes reminiscent of the introduction, and they blended perfectly with lead singer Molly Rankin’s voice, creating a delightfully hypnotic effect.
Alvvays continued to play some fresh cuts from their new album, “Blue Rev,” which was released only a week ago. Most notable was “After the Earthquake,” an upbeat tune with fun 1980s alternative rock guitar passages that were steeped in nostalgia. “Very Online Guy” was a crowd favorite — surprising considering its departure from the band’s typical sound. Synthesizers were incorporated heavily in its performance, driving the monotone chorus in this DEVO-esque electronic banger.
With new stuff out of the way, Alvvays returned to their well-known hits – the first of which was “Adult Diversion,” which reinvigorated fans with its infectious, blissful melody. “Archie, Marry Me” and “Dreams Tonite” were, of course, major highlights of the night, and had fans singing along like no one was watching.
The final number of the night was “Easy on Your Own?” The opening lyrics of the song, “I dropped out, college education’s a dull knife,” connected with a crowd of Badgers struggling through a brutal midterm exam season. After chants of “One more song!” Alvvays was welcomed back to the stage to deliver the encore, “Saved by a Waif,” a danceable send-off that was carried by Molly Rankin’s impressive range.
Alvvays’ music was supported by visuals projected behind the band, which consisted of low-resolution colorful abstractions and surreal shots of flowers that looked like pop art created by a VCR player. The visuals were more engaging to watch than the musicians themselves at times, as their stage presence and crowd interactions were somewhat lackluster.
The Thursday night show marked an end to the 2022 concert season at Memorial Union and a beginning to Alvvays’ and Slow Pulp’s long-anticipated fall tour. The bands are heading to the East Coast next, with upcoming dates in Washington, Oregon and California. Be sure to support these groups if you’re in search of thoughtfully crafted dream pop to inspire you.