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Alvvays @ Riviera Theater (Concert Review by KSENIYA)

Molly Rankin, the lead singer of Alvvays

Seven years ago, I bought tickets to Alvvays’ Adult Diversion tour only to have my dreams crushed by the fine print– the show was 18+, and I was thirteen years old. Another two years passed and the band released their sophomore album Antisocialites, the tour for which my  fifteen year old self was also unable to attend. When I turned 18, I prayed and prayed for the release of a third album so I could finally see my favorite band play live. Yes, my favorite band. While this might seem like a hyperbolic statement to make for someone who is fond of so many artists, I can say with certainty that Alvvays’ discography and sound is my favorite, and has been for many years. Unfortunately, my dreams were somewhat shattered when the pandemic hit. Even as transmission plateaued and governments eased social distancing measures, the Canadian border remained closed. The Toronto-based band had no way of touring the states, or even recording music since their rhythm section is American. Everything changed when they announced the release of their third studio album, Blue Rev, and the accompanying tour. I bought tickets to their Chicago show with astonishing zeal, determination, and stealth– I would not let clumsy button-pushing or a slow internet connection stand in the way of me and my jangle pop dream. 

The wait was certainly worth it. The crowd at the Riviera Theater buzzed with anticipation as fans gathered for the first time in half a decade to celebrate the band’s reemergence. Indeed, Chicago was just the first stop on their Fall tour, which became evident throughout the show as the band somewhat struggled with sound engineering issues and audio distortion. These issues could also be attributed to the venue’s antiquity– although its 1920s ornamental woodwork was an aesthetic marvel, the overall acoustics of the theater were not as crisp as I would have liked. Additionally, I was standing on the far-right side of the theater, as far as possible away from the lead guitarist. With the way the sound was designed, this meant I heard very little of him, which was a minor let-down given that I couldn’t hear one of the best moments in Blue Rev– the guitar solo at the end of “Pomeranian Spinster.” Besides these minor auditory problems, Alvvays sounded phenomenal and highly rehearsed– a near duplicate of their studio recordings. 

The set list did not disappoint– fan favorites like “Archie, Marry Me” and “Dreams Tonite” were peppered throughout the show in place of newer, less popular songs from Blue Rev. While I was delighted to hear these older tracks, I wished they had played some of my personal favorites from Blue Rev, namely “Lottery Noises.” The transitions between old and new were seamless, though, highlighting the band’s knack for producing a consistent yet fresh sound across records. Each rendition shared a lush soundscape composed of playful keys, dreamy, layered guitar, understated but impactful drums, and bright vocals sung by Molly Rankin. Tone-setting visuals were projected behind the band, ranging from lo-fi natural landscapes to cassette footage of a little girl doing an irish jig. This audio-visual experience was highly immersive, almost fantastical. It was so easy to get lost in the music, and I think this was true for many in the audience. The crowd was uninhibited, dancing energetically to the upbeat melodies and crowd-surfing to even the slowest of songs. The concert left a lasting impression on me, both figuratively and literally, as evidenced by the scuff of a crowdsurfer’s shoe on my forehead. 

It is a special thing to be able to see your favorite artist in person, especially after such a substantial wait. I eagerly await Alvvays’ next project, but until then, I will be content reliving the night through the shaky recordings I took on my phone, and dancing in my room with my eyes closed pretending I’m still at the Riviera.

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