Considering they haven’t headlined Adelaide since 2010, and in that time have released some of their most well-received and defining material yet, The Wonder Years were well and truly overdue for an Adelaide headline show. Entering the ever illusive Fowlers Live venue the air was rife with elation and optimism just as the second support act, Our Last Days, wrapped up what looked to be a great set.
Next up was Knuckle Puck, an act which managed to pick up a substantial following even before they put out their decent debut album Copacetic last year. On record they play a pretty familiar brand of Pop-Punk albeit with some light touches of technical nuance in the instrumentation. The big question which hung in everyone’s mind was, how do these nuance translate into the energy of a Pop-Punk styled live show which generally favours the more direct approach?
As the band launched into their fairly long set it was comforting to see how these softer elements were balanced out by their more generalized approach, and besides, their rabid crowd ate up everything they threw at them. Opening with the first track of their debut album “Wall to Wall (Depreciation)” and sprinkling their set with highlights such as “True Contrite” and “But Why Would You Care?” the band’s performance was typical for the genre but the crowd reaction helped to elevate it significantly.
Once Knuckle Puck’s set ended the crowd converged in front of the stage with their blood racing, ready to welcome the hotly anticipated headliners. As The Wonder Years took the stage and launched into “I Don’t Like Who I Was Then” I was struck with an impression that I couldn’t quite articulate. It took a few more songs before I realised what was so jarring about their stage presence, outside of the huge hooks and joyous crowd reactions, The Wonder Years barely performs how you’d expect a Pop-Punk band to perform. No, as Dan Campbell’s voice cracks at the edges while singing loudly about finding his place in the world and the deaths of those around him, The Wonder Years become something much darker and weary than your standard Pop-Punk group.
This more honest approach to songwriting leaks through to the live setting where the band perform their songs, both old and new, with the same emotional resonance and vigour you’d expect from their first time. Highlights included the part ballad, part ripper “The Devil in My Bloodstream”, the fan-favourite “Melrose Diner” and the emotionally devastating “Cigarettes & Saints”. Every song they played though, including the B-side “Living Room Song” went over exceptionally with the stoked crowd who never missed a line and who kept the pace throughout the entirety of the set.
It was a set that no one wanted to end but after the band finished off with the classic “Came Out Swinging”, everyone left Fowlers knowing they just experienced something special from a band that have transcended the undeniable fun of Pop-Punk and morphed into something much deeper and so much more impactful.