It’s 2013, and a fresh, talented indie band are playing the Hare & Hounds in Kings Heath. Nothing new there, then. For those who know the Birmingham music scene, this is a regular occurrence. Some bands will ply their trade here for some time. But not this band.
Under four years and two albums later, Circa Waves now grace Digbeth’s O2 Institute: a venue far too small for their sound, which could fill bigger locations quite comfortably, and has. But at the same time, it’s a perfect sweatbox for a band with energy aplenty, and fans with the vigour to match.
The thunderous intro of ‘Wake Up’ kick started the lively affair, and neither Circa Waves nor the sold-out crowd would have had it any other way. It’s a powerful opening to proceedings, and there’s no need to up the tempo from here: they can maintain it throughout the one hour 15-minute set – it’s what they do best.
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While the old favourites were the gig’s golden moments, in particular back-to-back duo ‘Young Chasers’ and ‘Fossils’, the quartet’s latest offerings and darker sound gave the evening a twist.
It’s a complete new string to Circa Waves’ bow: real heart-on-the-sleeve lyrics and almost angry instrumentals. There’s more meaning, more punch. But, intertwined with their debut, feel-good tracks, it makes for one of the most energetic sets you’ll experience.
In particular, ‘Different Creatures’, the title track of their second album released in March, and ‘A Night On The Broken Tiles’ are dark numbers, with anthemic choruses perfect for a crowd who were more than up for it.
Introducing their next single, front man Kieran Shudall addressed his crowd: “If there was ever a song to do a mosh pit to,” he teased, “this is it,” as the band flew into grungy ‘Goodbye’. It’s the most raucous, pounding song in their back catalogue, and the crowd needed no encouragement to throw themselves into each other, as they had been doing all evening.
While ‘Good For Me’ has been sadly sacrificed, ‘Stuck In My Teeth’, ‘Get Away’ and ‘So Long’ remain; with the crowd just as pleased to be hearing them as the band are to be playing them. ‘Lost It’ made the cut, too; with Kieran wanting everyone on their feet: “dancing is good for the soul,” he told the balcony, who instantly rose to join in the fun.
There’s a gorgeous chemistry not only between the four on stage but with their crowd as well. The band’s passion for their songs oozes through to the fans at their feet. This gig, and all the others they play throughout the UK, is sold out for a reason.
There were some brief moments of calm; ‘Out On My Own’, detailing the struggles of male depression, and encore opener ‘Love’s Run Out’ showcased Kieran’s vocals superbly, and offered a respite to the otherwise high-tempo night. ‘My Love’, from their debut ‘Young Chasers’, also offered a real sing-along moment; arms aloft and lyrics sang word for word.
As the night neared its conclusion, ‘Fire That Burns’ acted as a catalyst for chaos before Circa Waves’ staple finisher: ‘T-Shirt Weather’. It could never be anything else. What’s best about this track is that it leaves nothing behind: voices are strained, lungs are empty, bodies are bruised in the mosh pits which ensue.
And the most important element about it? The happiness. Although ‘Different Creatures’ offers a new, venomous sound, Circa Waves will always be defined, and known, by their debut album. It’s what allowed people to become hooked in the first place, and it’s what will keep them coming back for more. Happiness is infectious, and Circa Waves are masters of the feel-good factor.