Photo credit: Sophie Griffiths.
After the success of their first self produced album, Oh Wonder are back on the road touring the new upbeat and high-spirited material they have adopted with Ultralife. The London-based duo graced the stage of the O2 Academy in Bristol last Tuesday with a sold-out show packed with fans there to hear their old and new favourites; a big step up from the last time they were in Bristol for an intimate and stripped back show at Thekla. They have managed to evolve the new album and tour to fit in with a fresh new sound whilst still maintaining the basics of synthy electro pop that attracted fans to the first album.
To be playing this venue in Bristol was clearly an important part of the tour for them since at the back doors of that exact venue was where they met and Oh Wonder first began. Josephine was clearly hyped up with anticipation to be performing in the city where she attended University, and there were moments where her nerves poked through her bubbly persona. She modestly sustained a sense of wonder at the thought of them selling out the venue throughout the performance.
Entering the venue after support from Sigrid, finding a place to stand proved difficult as the crowd was already packed and ready for the show. Everyone lit up along with the bright lights as they made their entrance onto the stage in front of a crowd predominantly made up of teenage girls with some diversity of ages mixed in. They opened with Dazzle, and the whole crowd knew it was coming. Everyone began to jig along to the beat and sing every word in unison as they took their place in front of their signature OW backdrop, which continued to light up in an array of glorious colours throughout their set.
The vocals are definitely a strong point of their shows, with Josephine hardly differing at all from how she sounds recorded. It’s evident this is something they have perfected, and it would be interesting and beneficial to their set to see them improvise, perhaps throwing in a cover that could focus entirely on her vocals, allowing her to show them off a bit more. There’s definitely room to bring an exciting twist to the music everyone in the crowd is already expecting.
Despite that, it’s easy to get lost in the moment when their interweaving vocals sound dreamier than ever when they completely surround and encapsulate you. It’s clear to hear how they blend together so seamlessly in the way their voices stand out against the bassy beats that are far from overpowering. They manage to mix them in a way that remains calm and soothing, never becoming too heavy that the music outshines the vocals and lyrics.
Josephine tinkers with the keyboard energetically, making the crowd match her excitement with moments of interaction in between tracks. She is comfortable joking with the audience, involving them in her anecdotes and feeding off of the energy they provide. Anthony has more of a restrained stage presence, clicking and grooving along to the beats with his eyes closed, tending not to engage in the same enthusiastic way.
However, Josephine’s energy was certainly enough to keep spirits high throughout the set. Oh Wonder left everyone wanting more, shouting for an encore of Ultralife and Drive, which they hadn’t yet performed. The energy levels peaked during this part of the set and everyone around had their hands up in the air moving along to the well known rhythms.
Overall their performance was well balanced between the high energy tunes and some very vulnerable moments. Josephine telling the crowd of the setbacks she faced entering the music industry before singing All We Do proved to be a heart-warming moment where her passion for what she does shone through. These moments of vulnerability helped her vocals really convey the meaning behind the song, outshining the electronics and lights to the point where they faded entirely into the background.
Much of their material follows the same indie-pop formula, which makes it difficult to pick a song that stands out unless there’s a personal connection to it. Lyrically they are powerful and emotive, at the same time providing a blissful and mellow atmosphere with their melodies and harmonies. There’s no need for them to try and show off. Although the light show boosts the atmosphere, they are very capable of standing alone against the massive OW without any gimmicks. Oh Wonder are perfectly able to dazzle audiences in their own unique way and leave them on a high.