Credit Shannon Brault

Review: Pale Waves @ Barrowland Ballroom

By Shannon Brault

Shannon Brault emphasises the queer joy of Pale Waves’ Glasgow gig.

As someone who has grown up listening to pop-punk, punk-rock and post-hardcore, nothing has quite hit my soul in the way that Pale Waves’ music has. They rocked out the Barrowlands Ballroom in Glasgow on November 27 as the fourth stop on their UK tour, reminding everyone in attendance that showing up as your true and authentic self is something to be celebrated.

The Manchester based queer punk-rock group was formed in 2014, but has only recently gained wider recognition, with their new album, Unwanted, debuting at number 4 on the UK albums chart this year. It received only a 6.1 on Pitchfork’s review scale, but that score far undersells the relevance and importance of this album in the pop-punk world. The darker and more dramatic album brought a level of intimacy into themes of heartbreak, inadequacy and finding yourself in this world. 

The pop-punk and punk-rock genres have been inundated with scandals and all-male groups that arguably sound quite similar. Pale Waves, at least for me, brought a new look and sound to the genre that I have loved for so long. Not only do they have a female vocalist, but songs about queer love and queer heartbreak – something that has been missing from the genre for far too long, despite the queer community being such an important backbone to the rock and punk worlds. Queer couples, groups of friends, and people of all ages rocked out to Pale Waves in Glasgow together. Abby Roberts opened for the band, and their early Avril Lavigne energy brought on exactly what the show needed to start. 

Opening with the harder, high energy Lies, their first song on Unwanted, Pale Waves got the entire crowd excited and ready to go. The lead singer, Heather, picked up a pride flag and draped it over her shoulder while she strutted down to the other end of the stage during the second verse, clearly expressing the band’s intention of making sure all feel welcome at their shows.

Their 17-song set list included songs for new and old fans, including 8 songs from Unwanted, but also old hits like Fall to Pieces, There’s a Honey, and Change. Perhaps the most important song of the show (or at least the one that many fans were waiting for) was She’s My Religion, the first of their two encore songs. There was a prerecorded audio tape of Heather talking while the band made their way back to the stage. The tape acted as an interlude to She’s My Religion, saying how much love had meant to her, and how this girl had saved her. Heather also draped a transgender flag around her during the song.

Heather has said how much the band loves Scotland, and how crowds in Scotland tend to be some of the loudest. That rang true: you could hear fans singing along and cheering throughout the concert, feeling seen in a way that is sometimes difficult to find in the real world. 

Pale Waves’ show and music make people feel safe, seen, heard, and valued. Their music is powerful and should be celebrated as the connecting force that it is.


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