London-based synth-pop duo Oh Wonder couldn’t get over how each time they’ve come to LA, the reception has been greater and greater. On Wednesday night, they headlined the first of two shows at the El Rey Theatre, a sold-out endeavor that solidifies the idea they’re a rising act to keep an eye on.
Consisting of Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West, Oh Wonder tours as a four-piece that allows their jazzy and R&B sound to shine. Right out the gate, they drenched the crowd in poppy upbeat “Livewire,” which had Josephine’s vocals on point. They played nearly every track from the self-titled full-length debut they dropped last September.
Vander Gucht and West’s contrasting vocals serve as the backbone to their indie pop goodness. On “Dazzle,” there’s a sort-of Flume sound to the beat, and when West delivered his vocals, it was the first of numerous times the females in the crowd showed their full appreciation. The largely female crowd (many of which were with their significant others) sang along to a number of the catchy hooks on the keyboard-heavy tunes. On “Landslide,” I saw a good number of people serenading each other with the refreshing “I’ll be there for you, I’ll be there for you” chorus.
The duo switched things up from song to song, going from more upbeat tracks to more down-tempo songs like “Heart Hope” – all while a big “OW” light shined behind them, changing colors throughout their set. Vander Gucht and West were eternally grateful for the support, talking up their excitement to be performing on Conan the following day.
One interesting sidenote to the show: a trio of dudes in front of me kept dipping into a little baggy of a powdered substance, which as the show went on, told me it was some sort of stimulant the way they couldn’t control themselves. On a Wednesday night in LA, no less.
One standout song “Without You” had a very familiar beat. I was ready to start singing the chorus of Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa’s “Young Wild and Free” when the keyboard intro kicked in, and later when it came time for the chorus.
Oh Wonder saved their most well-known song for last, “Technicolour Beat” before sending the crowd home in a timely manner. They’re a great date night if they ever come to your city, and their brand of synth-pop should only continue to get better as they go along.
LA-transplants GEMS opened up the show with their down-tempo electro-pop, performing six songs to a mostly full crowd. If you’re a fan of acts like The Naked & Famous or ASTR, Lindsay Pitts and Clifford John’s band are right up your alley. Five of the songs came off their debut album Kill the One You Love, with the other being “Medusa” from their EP. My favorite track of the night was “w/o U,” with its chorus of “I wanna get out, I can’t live without you.” Their set definitely sent a handful of people back to the merch table to check out some more of their stuff. Hopefully they play more LA gigs now that they’ve relocated from Washington DC.
If you are even a remote fan of either of these bands, make sure to check them out in their second night at the El Rey on Thursday.
Words: Mark E. Ortega
Photography: Danielle Gornbein