If you're even the slightest bit into pop-punk then The Wonder Years are band you're likely to have come across. Having spent this decade inspiring hope and fortitude with records like Suburbia I've Given You All and Now I'm Nothing '' and 'The Greatest Generation', they've managed to become one of the most vital bands in their scene due to just how relatable and full of heart Dan Campbell's lyrics are as well as how their music soars due to Campbell's passionate vocals as well as the scrappy but hooky instrumentation. Last year's 'No Closer To Heaven' saw The Wonder Years get a little more depressing and mellow with 'No Closer To Heaven', but not losing any of their flame or knack for songwriting. Tonight they play Leeds' Key Club as part of a short run of intimate shows, by the band's standards who are normally playing University's and Academy's, to give their fans a night they'll remember for the rest of their lives.
First off though we have Calls Landing, who deliver a similar brand of earnest pop-punk to The Wonder Years, which their fans are bound to love and they give an enthusiastic performance made by much head banging from members. Next up we have Wales' Clarity who carry the baton with their own peppy tunes.
Folk singer Laura Stevenson sticks out like a sore thumb on this bill, but kills it none-the-less with enough heart in her songs to match tonight's main event.
The Wonder Years hit the stage and open with the brief intro song 'Brothers &' which serves as a 'ready, set.' before this gig truly goes, and when it does with 'Cardinals', it's clear this show is going to be one to remember. Like most Wonder Years songs this one is rich in emotion and anthemic quality, so it's not the toughest challenge to get a room of people jumping to every note and singing every word. However, given that this show is full of their most die-hard fans it's like someone's extracted the high point of enthusiasm for this band and contained it to this tiny room.
Every song tonight is received like a hit, whether it is a modern pop-punk classic or an older, much lesser known track. Sometimes it's the crowd that really makes a show special and seen as though this crowd is the highest level of amped at every moment, there's this loving, communal atmosphere which doesn't dip until the show is over. When The Wonder Years play 'Passing Through A Screen Door', as expected people are jumping up and down, crowdsurfing and singing every word. When they play 'You're Not Salinger, get over it' from the 2008 EP 'Won't Be Pathetic Forever', it may leave people scratching their heads going 'what is this?' at a regular Wonder Years show, but here people are just as enthusiastic for it as they are the band's biggest songs. One kid is even spotted stage diving over and over again, because he couldn't make his way back to the floor, people being so giddy they kept catching and carrying him over and over.
The Wonder Years themselves are clearly keen to be here too. Campbell is constantly leaning off the stage, holding onto a pipe, not afraid to get in people's hands or faces. He later comments that said pipe will be full of feces, but between playing arenas, supporting Enter Shikari and playing here, he prefers here, getting up close and personal with the fans.
When it comes to the encore, they save the best for last with 'Came Out Swinging' perhaps their best and most celebrated song, one which, even by The Wonder Years' standards features a high level of spirit, with its lyrics detailing how life can be a mess and the difficulty of following one's dreams but ultimately inspires one to be able to overcome anything with the lines 'I spent the winter writing songs about getting better and if I'm being honest I'm getting there.' Campbell climbs onto the bar, then dives off as he sings those words, plunging straight into the rapid fans closing this gig with a bang. Despite the fact that this just may be the sweatiest gig Leeds will see all year, people are still ignited by the tunes and their love for this band to move until the very end.
The Wonder Years are a great band to see in any setting. They're always bound to get people singing and dancing, but these intimate shows are likely to be amongst the most special the band have ever played, this one at The Key Club being a prime example. The adrenaline from the crowd isn't likely to be matched anytime soon and will be remembered as a significant show in the history of The Key Club.
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