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18th March 2019

In conversation with whenyoung

Lily Martin reviews Irish trio whenyoung at the Manchester date of their most recent tour, supported by The Ninth Wave at The Deaf Institute
In conversation with whenyoung
Photo: whenyoung at The Deaf Institute

I meet the trio in the midst of soundcheck at Manchester’s Deaf Institute. They’re friendly, if a touch icy, and seem excited about being on their UK tour. Self-described as having a “striking musical identity”, whenyoung are known for their distinct image and Irish roots, playing over 100 shows in anticipation of their debut album release. Having supported The Vaccines and Blossoms, their fanbase seems to be enlarging at a rapid pace, although that wouldn’t be initially evident from spending even a brief amount of time with them.

It’s clear that they enjoy being on the road, they even admit that “it’s nice to come back” after an “intense year”. As a female-fronted band they offer promise, too. The combination of smooth talent from the three of them, with Aoife’s velvety vocals and ease on the bass, Niall’s confident guitar solos and Andrew’s drumming create tracks that feel immaculate.

Although it is always refreshing to see a band tackle the music scene with such determination, I couldn’t help but feel a little let down by their Deaf Institute gig. That’s not to say that they didn’t perform well; the crowd grew exponentially as the night progressed, and anyone I spoke to at the venue seemed enraptured by the anticipation of their performance, however having never heard or seen them play before, I felt disengaged… and dare I say it, bored.

This wasn’t helped by their preceding line-up. The absence of a first support band did feel, initially, bizarre. When I asked them about it before hand, no-one seemed to think it strange that the gig was just a two-band show, when normally I would expect to see a local band open, to bring in a new crowd, as well as to endorse an up-and-coming band to their current fanbase. The Ninth Wave filled up this gap impressively. It has been a while since I have seen a band with such sheer onstage charisma as well as musical promise. The combination creates a jaw-dropping excitement at the potential this Glaswegian group have to offer.

Initially, the powerful male-female harmonies of singers Haydn and Millie drew me to the iconic duo of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. Their vocals are idyllically matched, completing what feels like a perfectly choreographed musical dance onstage. Their live set feels less produced and more pure than their recorded work too, which is a relief. There’s not a member of the band that seems to hold them back either; each bandmate seems equally as talented and this produces an onstage harmony of skill which is electrifying. This partnership works well. The Ninth Wave have established ground-breaking tracks that engage and impress a crowd live. They are the embodiment of everything I like to see thriving in the music industry – identity, talent, equality and partnership.

whenyoung therefore felt somewhat overshadowed by their predecessors onstage. The crowd’s engagement and enthusiasm was unmistakable, but for me, it felt like the set really lacked something. They were certainly great, but at times I felt like their tracks delved into the generic, and as an old-fashioned gig-goer, I like there to be distinction between a body of tracks in a set, each having their own character. This wasn’t something that could be found in whenyoung. Tracks were driven, catchy, clearly familiar and well produced, but lacked something to make them truly distinct and recognisable to me. Nevertheless, the crowd loved it. The room was packed and an aura of enthusiasm was definitely present.

whenyoung’s Irish folk roots remain strong in their shoegaze-y songs, but their lack of energy live made it impossible for me, an outsider, to engage with their music. They embraced the venue entirely, and played well, but I’m not convinced they’ve recruited me to their cause, and I probably won’t be adding them to my playlists any time soon.


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