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6th June 2023

Live Review: Alvvays @ New Century Hall, Manchester, 30/05/23

Canadian indie-pop icons Alvvays play a massive headline date at New Century Hall, cementing themselves as titans of the scene.
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Live Review: Alvvays @ New Century Hall, Manchester, 30/05/23
Credit: Norman Wong

Everyone’s favourite Canadian indie-pop outfit Alvvays returned to Manchester, this time with comeback LP Blue Rev firmly established in their listeners’ record collections…

Alvvays Live at New Century Hall by Jacob Ainsworth

The last time I reviewed Alvvays in Manchester, it was a gloomy October evening. The band played to a humbly-sized crowd in the intimate Oxford Road-adjacent venue, Gorilla. The group had reformed seemingly out of nowhere: Alvvays had become somewhat of a distant memory for many indie fans, their first two records overplayed to death and with no live performances or online presence to speak of. Then, out of the blue, they returned with the promise of a new record.

Now it’s May: the sun softly sets over Manchester City Centre, punters swarm into New Century Hall, and Alvvays’ third record Blue Rev has been out for over seven months. They return to Manchester with newfound vigour and confidence – now that the sparkling splendour of their comeback record has lived with their listeners, Molly Rankin’s misfit gang of Smiths-enthusiasts are able to put on their most impressive show to date. There’s no doubt in anybody’s mind that Alvvays have miraculously – and rightfully – reasserted themselves as giants of the indie scene.

Across its fourteen tracks, Blue Rev maintains an addictive variety of moods, topics and styles: simply put, its Alvvays’ most ambitious piece of work yet. Their live set is designed to accommodate this, showcasing the songwriting prowess and eclecticism of an artist at the top of their game. It’s all here on display at New Century Hall. Whether it be the jangle-pop joyride of ‘After the Earthquake’, the internet-age rendering of Gary Numan’s stuttering synth-pop in ‘Very Online Guy’ or the mosh-pit-prompting rancour of ‘Pomeranian Spinster’, Blue Rev is alive and kicking – a record which has translated from the studio to the stage effortlessly. 

These songs were all played in their Gorilla show back in October, but, now that they’ve had time to settle into the psyches of indie kids everywhere, they glow with a stunning sheen. Blue Rev has become a classic in its own right, so much so that Alvvays only have to include two songs from their debut record in their main set, the audience singing along with a band content in its own unique, artistic trajectory. Sure, it’d be great to hear more seminal tracks from past records – ‘Party Police’ or ‘Plimsoll Punks’ come to mind – but when Alvvays have a potentially career-defining album on their hands? They simply don’t have to rely on past success.

Illustration by Jacob Ainsworth (in reference of Blue Rev’s artwork)

Front-woman Molly Rankin, often appearing charmingly coy and softly-spoken, seems especially smitten with the success of her latest record. There’s a palpable pride emanating from the singer as she speaks directly, bitterly, to a past lover in ‘Velveteen’, nervously anticipates the unstable future of an impregnated, impoverished woman in ‘Belinda Says’, and as she snaps her head back with an adrenaline-fuelled yelp before furiously strumming her white Stratocaster.

In my last review of the band live in Manchester (which you can read here), I called attention to Alvvays’ similarities with The Smiths, and I believe that Rankin’s seemingly increasing confidence and satisfaction only validates this similarity further. Like the troublesome, purposefully-polarising cultural icon that is Morrissey, Rankin’s catharsis soars in a similar way… there’s nothing more satisfying than watching an unassuming, bookish introvert finally being afforded the last laugh. Success has never looked better than when it’s shining on the blushing faces of Alvvays.

Molly Rankin by Jacob Ainsworth (lyrics taken from Velveteen by Alvvays)

On a personal note, I’ve been lucky enough to watch Alvvays three times across this academic year, and they’ve only gotten better with each time I’ve watched them. My second year of university has been bookended through the band in a sense – I arrived back in Manchester in the autumn to watch them at Gorilla in anticipation of Blue Rev (my first ever review for The Mancunion), and now I’ve watched them tour said album as my exam season comes to a close. It’s been wonderful, and I wish the band a very, very successful festival season.

Jacob Ainsworth

Jacob Ainsworth

20, he/him, UoM, Film Studies & English Literature. deputy music editor, writer, musician, illustrator and full-time Jarvis Cocker enthusiast

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