Oh Wonder @ Stylus 9/3/16
Josephine Van Gucht and Anthony West have made a name for themselves as Oh Wonder, the boy-girl duo singing gorgeous melodies: no harmonies, just an octave apart. This tricksy simplicity is reflected in their rise to fame; they released just one single every month for a year until they had accrued a dedicated fanbase and could sell out international shows without even having released an album.
This ingenuity is also reflected on-stage. Whilst the album sounds rather too low-key and understated to work as a live performance, they have cleverly adapted their sound to suit a live setting as large as Stylus. For crowd-pleaser ‘Technicolour Beat’, the climax of the song is achieved with resounding success where, recorded, it leaves you slightly cold. Halfway through their set, they shook it up with acoustic versions of ‘Midnight Moon’ and ‘White Blood’, which provided a lovely lull to the orchestrated highs of the evening.
What is striking in their performance is how impressively in sync they are. This was set up from the moment they both walked on-stage, wearing a uniform of understated black clothes. There was not one bum note throughout the entire set from either West or Van Gucht, and their performances are so co-ordinated they might as well be one person. Neither one takes centre stage; even during ‘Body Gold’, when Van Gucht came out from behind her keyboard for the first time and stood directly in the middle of the stage, she continually glanced at West to ensure that they were together in everything. They bounced off each other during the improvised piano solo of ‘Lose It’, taking encouragement and inspiration.
It’s this synchronicity, this symbiotic quality that creates their appeal, endearing them to a packed-out Stylus full of enthusiastic adolescents. Every member of the crowd knew all the words to every song, screaming out the chorus to the chilled out ‘All We Do’, cheering enthusiastically as they kick off their set with ‘Livewire’, anticipating the words of ‘White Blood’. As recognition to the dedication of their fans, Oh Wonder dedicated ‘Landslide’ to the audience, rendering it a personalised, comforting ode to the power of music to speak to an individual.
Given that it was their first show in Leeds, and Stylus was jammed to the rafters, this start to their career bodes well for Oh Wonder.
photo: Laura Harvey