While I’m not sure you can really call three days a residency, The Wave Pictures certainly made The Old Blue Last their home this week. From Monday to Wednesday, the band brought a touching intimacy, and homeliness, to the little Shoreditch pub-venue, with friendly chatter and an ever changing set-list of whimsical pop ditties.
Signed to Moshi Moshi records for almost a decade, and with ten years of songs before that, the guys have plenty of songs to choose from for the this evening’s seventeen track set. Indeed they have resorted to a numbered list, from which audience members are asked to choose at random. In every lull there is a barrage of requests; the band may not be household names, but they have grown a dedicated following who fill out the little room, watching in a reverent almost silence, although it is clear they know most of the words.
The gig starts with a mix of songs, all similar in tone, but letting the lyrics do the talking. Many might pass the band off as yet more twee indie pop, but there is more to them than just three piece music and quirky titles. While far from punk in their output, they share the back-to-basics DIY ethic, and their songs make everyday trials and tribulations magical, sometimes joyously, sometimes melancholically. In songs such as Canary Wharf, singer David Tattersall makes poetry out of his lack of money, “Purchasing chocolate to melt it on biscuits” before admitting the melodramatic nature with the words “I made myself a drama, out of absolutely nothing.”
That said, it tooks six songs before the tempo really changed, slowing right down as drummer Johnny “Huddersfield” Helm took the mic to sing Now You Are Pregnant, a long established ritual which turned the crowd quietly expectant. There was absolutely no chatter as he spun out this tale of unrequited teenage love amid “stacks of slacks and black platform shoes”, until the end when the crowd rose in unison for the first time, all pulling together for the final lines.
There followed more of the same, songs interweaving the plaintive and the prosaic –such as January and December’s chorus of “If you hold me like you plan to never let me go/ what I want to know, is when this pub closes” – and some from new album Long Black Cars, interspersed with chatter for the crowd. At one point a found notebook was handed up on stage, and Tattersall refused to believe the claims of the owner until he disclosed what was written inside. This was not, he said, because he was inherently mistrusting, but more because the handwriting appeared far too effeminate for the man in question; afterwards admitting that he had terrible (though obviously manly) handwriting himself.
The band were joined on pedal steel by support act Jack Hayter (previously of Hefner) for renditions of Sweetheart and We Come Alive, before an ambitious version of Who Will Dust Off Your Heart saw solos all round, most notably an extended drum effort, Bonham-esque but far less interminable. This was followed by Who Will Dust Off Your Heart, touchingly performed without a mic, once again eliciting total silence.
The set then wound down with a couple more songs, accompanied by Helm’s younger brother on sax. While the new instrument added eclecticism to the sound, it seemed at the start more likely to produce discord, rather than adding any real depth, sounding out of place and unnecessary in Cinnamon Baby. Luckily by the end it was jazzily riffing along for the closer Come Home Tessa Buckman, before the thank-yous and goodbyes.
But when the band finally withdrew to rapturous applause, it was clear they wouldn’t be allowed to finish there. The encore and eighteenth track of the night was a resounding singalonga Kiss Me, before they retired for the final time.
Anyone new to The Wave Pictures may have wondered why a band with such simple songs could elicit such a response. Admittedly, although all talented artists they can have quite a rough and ready sound. It could also be said that, superficially at least, the songs may merge together a little. But, as is clear from the crowd response when they finally left the stage after over an hour and a half of music, the subtle differences and the sometimes simple yet clever lyrics deserve a second listen. And more than merit the last three days of performance.