WALK THE MOON revive pop-punk in Birmingham

WALK THE MOON are perhaps best known for their 2015 hit Shut Up and Dance. For a time no party was complete without it and the song became a summer anthem. Now, three years on, the band have released a new album and are travelling the UK with their Press Restart tour. On 7 April the band performed in the Birmingham O2 Institute, an intimate venue lit with rich colours. The band, even from the balcony, seem close enough to touch. Their passion whilst performing is infectious – they leap across the stage with an energy inspired by the electric tones and powerful beat of their songs. The electronic spunk of their music is reminiscent of Imagine Dragons, and any fan of bands leading the pop-punk renaissance, such as Fall Out Boy or Twenty One Pilots, are likely to enjoy this band’s new album.

As the show starts I am sat on the balcony, and in the sea of people below I see no dominating target audience. A girl sitting next to me and starts conversation; her cheeks are emblazoned with pink glitter and her hair is a rainbow. The couple behind are celebrating their 20th anniversary, while a few seats down, a stylish woman is seated with her grandchildren, embarrassing them with choreographed dances. These people appear to have nothing in common, and this is the intriguing thing about their fan base: it is so diverse and welcoming, with no shame in singing along. As WALK THE MOON state whilst on stage, everyone in the room is part of a family brought together by music.

Petricca is keen for the audience to get involved and encourages everyone who is able-bodied to stand as he struts across the stage

The show begins with the titular Press Restart. This song combines meaningful lyrics with a catchy beat, and the crowd needs no time to warm up – the small venue is filled with voices, a soothing hum that establishes this ‘family’ as truly united by the band on stage. This is followed by a further eighteen songs, the majority of which form part of their new album What if Nothing. This album is a modern sound that differs from WALK THE MOON’s early songs – it is more mature, their sound like its members seeing growth. Their image has also been refined: the band has a tradition of painting their faces, but what was once a look of casual, even hurried, quality has developed into precise, angular lines reminiscent of war paint.

Their childlike demeanour, however, is not entirely in the past. The band’s arrival is announced with a playback of the first few seconds of the Lion King’s iconic Circle of Life. Although they are almost exclusively clad in black, the band are natural showmen; WALK THE MOON certainly know how to walk the stage. Nick Petricca, the lead singer and frontman of the band, is high-spirited. He plays the air guitar during Eli Maiman’s guitar solo and has no issue creating banter on stage in between songs. Petricca is keen for the audience to get involved and encourages everyone who is able-bodied to stand as he struts across the stage. People follow suit, and for one song the venue is momentarily unified through a dance routine that is picked up quickly by the audience, who mimic Petricca. This is short lived, however, as stewards ask everyone in the balcony to take their seats for their own safety whilst Petricca laughs off the incident.

In ‘Aquaman’, Maiman states this song is about feelings and very seriously urges that “if you feel something, say something”

The show is dominated by this carefree, whimsical attitude and band are truly entertaining. The show only slows in its energy for one song, performed by Petricca and Maiman. Before singing a walking-pace rendition of the usually upbeat ‘Aquaman’, Maiman states this song is about feelings and, very seriously, urges that “if you feel something, say something”. The song is beautifully shared between artist and audience, and the stage is lit by pale green and white lights. It is simple, and perfect for this intimate venue.

Whilst this is the only slow song, it is by no means the only serious one. Lyrics such as “you are not alone” and “going down with my wings on fire” are reminiscent of Twenty One Pilots. The deeply felt emotions expressed in these are easy to miss if one is absorbed in the infectious rhythms and showmanship.

Songs from previous albums were met with as much warmth as their new music. The classic ‘Shut Up and Dance’ incited significant praise, and the song ‘Shiver’ was met with screams of excitement. The biggest crowd-pleaser, however, has to be their closing song, ‘Anna Sun’. The classic indie tune has everyone singing along and, although it is the last track of the night, the O2 Institute has an air of potential filling it. The remainder of the set is incredible, and yet closing the show with ‘Anna Sun’ above others makes for a virtually eternal moment. Blue and orange lights danced across the stage and, paired with the upbeat tune, we are for a minute transported to the future, to summer. Petricca does not refrain from joining the audience and begins walking atop the barrier, holding hands with lucky fans as Maiman leaps, and Kevin Ray shimmies, across the stage. This is truly the climax of the infectious energy that has dominated the performance.

Having finished their set, the band concludes by throwing paper, ear buds and drum sticks into the audience who had loyally danced, sung and cheered for them. Finally and ever so assuredly the band departs from the stage, signing off with a peace sign and leaving a satisfied audience in their wake.

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