The last time this country got a full headline tour from Spanish Love Songs was 2019, not long after the release of breakthrough second album ‘Schmaltz’ and in a world where the word “pandemic” was still to most people associated with a board game, so to say anticipation was high would be an understatement. Much has changed in the 5 years since then and 2 albums later a very quickly sold-out Waterfront Studio was buzzing in excitement for their return.
First to take the stage were local Norwich-based quartet SUDS. Fresh off the back of impressive debut album The Great Overgrowth and signing to famed UK indie label Big Scary Monsters, they waste no time in winning over new faces in the crowd with a captivating blend of midwest emo & contemporary UK indie-pop. Songs like ‘A Terrible Thing‘ and singles ‘Hard For Me’ & ‘Paint My Body’ come to life with well executed vocal harmonies, huge reverbed guitar melodies and the calmness of a band who know they have the crowd onside on home turf. It’s been a long while since Norwich had a band it could really get behind, but SUD’s ‘Wolf Alice-meets-American Football’ sound is one that could take them far, and the fact these songs sound even larger played live bodes well for the rest of a tour that will see them play for their largest audiences to date.
Ohio’s Heart Attack Man were given the unenviable position of taking to the stage between a band on the hometown leg of their tour and the band everyone is here to see. It doesn’t seem to be a position that phases them, and what their brand of hardcore-infused pop-punk lacks in the nuance & craft of the openers (and what is to come), it makes up for in energy. When a band’s previous tour mates include Neck Deep, Boston Manor & Knuckle Puck you pretty much know exactly what you’re in for, and Heart Attack Man don’t deviate far from the script. Save for a few fans up front the crowd is noticeably more muted and they feel like a slightly awkward fit in this line up, songs such as ‘Like A Kennedy’ and stage banter about the state of the USA fall slightly flat, but the band do a decent enough job of warming things up for the main event.
Los Angeles’ Spanish Love Songs have an incredible talent of making any venue they play feel tiny. Not just because vocalist Dylan Slocum’s 6ft6” frame fills the stage, but because they possess the quality to make every single one of the 200-strong capacity crowd feel like each song is written personally for them, so strong is the connection between band and its audience. It’s one of the reasons this is a band who’ve organically built a fanbase full of devoted followers on little more than word of mouth. Both for those in attendance and seemingly the band themselves it feels like a set packed full of pure catharsis, a delicate mixture of sadness & despair mixed with a sarcastic wit and a triumphant “we’ll get through it together” undertone.
There’s no messing around here, 17 songs packed into an hour long set creating the sweatiest room in Norwich on a bitterly cold January night, a set so packed full of earnest delivery, huge hooks and catchy guitar/synth combo’s that it sounds like a greatest hits set despite only drawing from 3 albums of material. Songs like ‘Lifers’ and ‘Haunted’ from their most recent release – last year’s ‘No Joy’ – add elements of new wave to their sound, the latter pushing keyboardist Meredith van Woert more to the fore than ever and have quickly become set favourites. Every song played sees the majority of the crowd shouting Slocum’s razor-sharp storytelling lyrics back at him, the whole set somehow feeling like a deeply personal yet completely communal experience.
A trio of songs from 2018’s ‘Shmaltz’ keep those fans who were in from the beginning satisfied but it’s the newer material that really seems to hit, the band having refined and developed their sound – never straying far from the formula but growing with every release. There is no encore here, the band telling the audience that they prefer to squeeze in more songs rather than follow the tired trope of walking off the stage and back on for no apparent reason, and the one-two punch of ‘Routine Pain‘ and ‘Brave Faces Everyone‘ which bookend their 2020 album of the same name provides the audience with a triumphant finish.
“On any given day I’m a 6\10” – the opening line to crowd-favourite Routine Pain – is an outright lie, because on this night in Norwich, Spanish Love Songs were simply outstanding, while closing track ‘Brave Faces Everyone’ provides the perfect leaving message for a crowd about to leave a rightfully packed & sweaty room and head back out onto the frozen Norwich streets.
Words & Photos – Tom Griffiths