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Norfolk Tourism Awards

Andrew WK review: ‘He blew the roof off the venue’

PUBLISHED: 18:20 19 April 2018 | UPDATED: 08:32 20 April 2018

Andrew WK performing at The Waterfront in Norwich, 18th April 2018. Photo: Sam Dawes

Andrew WK performing at The Waterfront in Norwich, 18th April 2018. Photo: Sam Dawes

Sam Dawes

Andrew WK, with support from Yonaka, desenced on The Waterfront in Norwich last night [April 18] bringing an evening of organised chaos and partying.

Yonaka supporting Andrew WK at The Waterfront in Norwich, 18th April 2018. Photo: Sam DawesYonaka supporting Andrew WK at The Waterfront in Norwich, 18th April 2018. Photo: Sam Dawes

On my way to my very first Andrew WK show, I very much feel the way I would if I was going on a first date: A blind one.

To my slight embarrassment, I first became acquainted with his music through my work as a journalist.

Left to my own devices, I tend to go for the doomed poet/raving prophet archetype as personified by the likes of Nick Cave, Tom Waits and Serge Gainsbourg - in other words, I’ve got a taste for the blues and ‘(front)men who are older’ by Lana del Rey.

Andrew’s sound and image seemed light years away from the current, sad pop, synth-dominated millennial musical landscape and its preoccupation with melancholia, pseudo-tragic romance and dark glamour aesthetics.

The world of Andrew WK is unapologetically optimistic, loud, giddy, and often embraces a caveman-like, exaggerated hedonism. Could this be music for the masses of the (dark) year 2018 after a long hiatus of 12 years? Could the self-styled party king win us all over again?

Like any millennial, who respects themselves, usually does before a date, I went online and looked up Andrew on Google and social media prior to our interview in anticipation of his Norwich show.

Here’s what it gathered for me: Andrew is tall, dark and appears to spend hours at the gym. His stage ‘uniform’ is unfailingly as white as his all-American wide grin: The yang to the yin of his usually black-clad, frowning peer in the rock scene.

He is all about partying hard and has even authored a book on the subject – the party bible.

His roots are in metal and hard rock, the very same music my pre-teen and early teens self used to listen to. There it is: What we have in common.

Armed with this information and having immersed myself in his sound and lyrics, I set out to interview him, discovering another, deeper side to his vision in the process. Would his wild child persona ever let that side show on stage, I wonder, quite intrigued, on the frontline of his crowd of acolytes at Norwich’s Waterfront on April 18. And will he be the hell raiser they say he is?

Among the impatient chants of PARTY, PARTY, PARTY, a rebel angel is summoned, only she is female. The fast rising, Brighton-based quartet Yonaka, fronted by Theresa Jarvis, are the hors d’oeuvre to Andrew WK’s main party treats. Or so the (initially lukewarm) audience thinks.

Almost immediately, the band takes the stage by storm, proving they are actually a tour de force in their own right, living up to their reputation as one of the UK’s most promising ‘fledgling’ acts.

Yonaka supporting Andrew WK at The Waterfront in Norwich, 18th April 2018. Photo: Sam DawesYonaka supporting Andrew WK at The Waterfront in Norwich, 18th April 2018. Photo: Sam Dawes

Yonaka’s dark pop emerged from the vibrant but often over-crowded Brighton scene only a few years ago and was almost immediately hailed as ‘destined for bigger and better things’, after having released just a handful of songs.

Their infectious, roaring, rave-gathering single Wouldn’t Wanna Be Ya’, was produced by Ross Orton (Arctic Monkeys) while BBC Radio 1’s Phil Taggart picked up ‘Ignorance’ for release via his Hometown Records label.

They left a red hot mark on UK festivals last summer. It is easy to see – and hear-why. In their own words they like to ‘hang their songs on a knife’s edge’ mixing different – even incongruous on the surface - genres and styles.

Their alchemy of sound dissolves and coagulates metal, hip hop, angsty pop and almost everything in between, producing an amalgam that is surprisingly catchy and accessible. This multi-faceted soundscape manages to balance glossy and underground at the same time.

Equal doses of relentless riffs and soaring melodies fill the Waterfront as Theresa sways, croons, raves and raps, with a stage presence that is almost weightless, tireless and irresistibly magnetic.

She addresses the audience directly and maintains eye-contact throughout – which makes them quickly warm up to her, winning over even the few ‘old hard rock wolves’ among the crowd.

Andrew WK performing at The Waterfront in Norwich, 18th April 2018. Photo: Sam DawesAndrew WK performing at The Waterfront in Norwich, 18th April 2018. Photo: Sam Dawes

Her impressive vocal range has brought inevitable comparisons to other femme-fronted bands such as Paramore and Wolf Alice, but Yonaka never welcomed labels: She’s got ‘quick lips and a look to kill’ and takes her own ‘leap like a lightning bolt’ into a lyrical world that is the polar opposite of most of the songs by Andrew W.K.

It’s hard to tell how this is going to work – how their various shades of grey, English rain will blend in with the upcoming fiery brightness of the main act. It somehow does, however, as the two bands prove to have more in common than meets the eye: Both are in your face, they demand your attention the moment they appear, with a kind of insolence. Both are no-apologies. And they both thrive on organized chaos.

The chants demanding for the party god to descend get louder. Andrew W.K and his cohorts storm the stage accompanied by thundering drums. And as promised, they begin their hell raising immediately, true to their reputation.

‘’It’s good to be partying in Norwich on a Wednesday night’’ he hails his fans, who have packed the small venue ready to run riot with a simple wave of his hand. He is welcomed like an old friend – or rather the leader of a pack - as he towers over them, the stage almost too narrow for his trademark theatrics of glam-rock.

Loud and dynamic, Andrew WK blows the roof off the venue. In case some – such as yours truly – hoped for the greater depths of Andrew’s latest tunes, with its darker, more self-aware and socially concerned themes, including passages of his motivational speaking, they were bound to be disappointed.

The set list drew heavily on past party anthems with telling titles such as ‘We Want Fun’ and ‘Party til You Puke’. It’s hard to complain though, watching the moshpitters doing Indian dances and stage-divers trying to reach out to the band with sparkling eyes: Andrew W.K, a sworn entertainer, performs as if he is on a mission against the darkness and intensity of life and the right to have fun in the face of it.

Even a song with a title as dark as ‘Ready To Die’ becomes, on his lips, a celebration of life. If he wanted to prove to his fans –and himself –that ‘music is worth living for’ tonight, he seems to have succeeded.

‘No matter how hard life gets we won’t stop partying’ he declares before bustling into ‘Never Let Down’, his acolytes rising their fists to the air. They literally fall down on their knees as he counts down from 96 (yes, 96) before ‘Party Hard’ during the encore.

‘’It’s been two decades of partying…But we never take anyone for granted, not for one moment. Thank you for believing…It’s the partiest party we’ve ever had in Norwich. We’ll never forget tonight.’’

Andrew’s love declaration to his fans surely resounds in their ears along with the echo of the amplifiers as they head off after he disappears once more behind the smoke and mirrors of the stage, with a triumphant smile on his face.

And what about my final verdict? What have I discovered about Mr W.K after all? Let me borrow the words of Theresa Jarvis for this one: ‘’You are a rock star, baby.’

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