It’s always interesting watching a band you’ve never heard before perform live. There’s a chance you’ll absolutely hate it or maybe, just maybe, you’ll be entirely blown away by a musician you may have never taken interest in otherwise. Either way, I enjoy going in with a raw, unbiased, and curiosity-driven perspective of how an artist fuses their sound, production, and performance into an encapsulating, multi-sensory experience. The dynamic alt-pop duo Oh Wonder gave their audience just that with a heartfelt, electrifying, and family-friendly concert that would make even the angstiest of teen hearts melt on this starlit night after Halloween.
From the moment I entered the pulsating crowd of The Beacham, the audience alone put a smile on my face as I harkened back to every concert I’d been to on a school night, the thrill of a weeknight out adding to the intensity of a genuinely invigorating show. There is something refreshing about finding yourself immersed in a crowd of younger (dare I say, less experienced) concert-goers compared to the haze of jaded cynicism occasionally wafting over a more seasoned audience (or maybe that’s just me being an asshole). Perhaps it was the fact that many avid fans had been waiting, ticket-in-hand, since the band’s first canceled show in the wake of the Pulse Nightclub tragedy back in June, skyrocketing the anticipation and adrenaline to an all-time high.
Or maybe it was the fact that I was also accompanied by a 9-year-old at her first concert ever who literally Irish jigged her way to the venue. Either way, the lightheartedness of the whole affair and the “first concert jitters” reverberating off more than one elated fan-girl. It seemed to rub off on me in a way that truly made the experience complete. The crowd stayed arduously-passionate from beginning to end, erupting in high-pitched screams when they took the stage with their hit, “Livewire.”
The king and queen of the stage, Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West, hail from London, England where they live together in a home/studio but are allegedly not a couple. They could’ve fooled me as their unmistakable chemistry shone through from the very start, her on keyboard and him alternating between keys and guitar while they both sang. I would describe their sound as reminiscent of Of Monsters and Men but stripped of their folk undertones and replaced with the synth-pop simplicity of the xx or Purity Ring. Steady beats whisper over hushed, synchronized vocals. Together, they create a wistful, borderline haunting sound evocative of Lydia with just enough poppy, singer-songwriter influences to make it relatable. Vander Gucht’s soprano overpowers West’s alto voice in a way that creates textured harmonies, accentuated by their minimalistic instrumentation. After all, they are both classically trained musicians. Their mesmerizing perfection in everything from their vocals to their “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed” demeanor prove it.
Oh Wonder’s unique qualities are not so much in the music itself, but in their unorthodox approach to the industry. They released their first and only self-titled album, produced and mixed in their home. Over the span of a year, the duo shared one song every month via Soundcloud before releasing the full album in September 2015. For a band with only one album who are just beginning their touring career, I would say they’re doing a pretty damn good job at jam-packing venues as large as The Beacham. Clearly, Oh Wonder aren’t afraid to make bold moves, further proven by literally putting their name up in lights, with giant luminescent letters — an O and a W — looming behind them on stage and making for an electrifying presentation.
Their infectious energy is undeniable while their humble innocence is just perfect for the equally innocent crowd they were playing to. There are no passionate creative differences shining through here á la The Civil Wars, but rather, they seem to be a musical mirror image of each other and perform with Disney-like enchantment. But no really, they both actually look like Disney characters with their flawless coifs, radiant smiles, and theater-like presentation. Cue the “awws” as she compared their excitement over coming to Orlando, to waking up on Christmas morning. This was followed by a monologue about believing in yourself (sigh). One thing’s for sure, much like Walt Disney himself, Oh Wonder seems to have found the secret formula for success and nailed it on the head.
When all’s said and done, I had a genuinely great night and that says a lot about a musician’s ability to reach out to their audience and put on a truly engaging show (even if the 9-year-old fell asleep in the corner halfway through). Oh Wonder has a magical way of being innocent yet indulgent, playful yet mystifying, ethereal yet exciting. They may not be bringing anything particularly original to the table, but their effortless perfection and catchy tunes prove that they know what they’re doing and they’ll be sticking around.
Oh Wonder Live Review by Ariel Rivera, edited by Matthew Weller.
Oh Wonder Live Photos by Chad Pearce.
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