On Thursday, Oct. 19, I got the opportunity to see the alt-pop duo Oh Wonder at the Fox Theater, and words can’t express how much I loved this concert. I entered the grand Fox Theater, a beautiful old building ornately decorated with, among other things, two godlike statues flanking the stage. The theater was sold out, flooded with all types of Oh Wonder fans, old and young, in the most fashionable clothes I’ve ever seen. As the anticipation for Oh Wonder’s set began to build, James Young, the opening act, sang a beautiful ballad with his stunning falsetto voice. A blue light shone brightly on him, and the rest of the band was hidden in shadows – simply a beautiful sight to see. When he finished his set, I was still left a little anxious, not knowing what Oh Wonder had planned for us.
We waited for a while while they set up the stage, and then the lights dimmed. A dissonant, ambient sound rose in pitch and loudness, and I knew they were about to start. They make their entrance with lights flashing chaotically, revealing a neon “OW” on the back of the stage. Eventually, the suspenseful sound and flashing lights built up to the first note on “Dazzle” and revealed Oh Wonder on the stage. Something I really enjoyed about this song – and many others they played – were that the songs weren’t exactly like the ones you’d heard on the album since some parts of the songs were altered, such as the extension of the lyric, “give me that gold,” in “Dazzle.” The way that I heard those songs that night can’t be replicated from me listening to their albums, and it makes me want to relive the concert all over again. Other things that can be chalked up to wonderful song changes were the inserted guitar solos in “Without You” and “Landslide” and an improvised saxophone solo during “Body Gold.” There were also captivating new introductions to songs, like the police sirens and flashing red lights in “High on Humans” and the a cappella intro of “I Could Be the Only One.”
Electricity radiated from the stage. I could tell by the faces of the duo, Anthony and Josephine, that they were enjoying the concert as much as we were; their energy was feeding into my energy and the crowd’s energy was feeding back into theirs. Josephine removed her mic and jumped up and down across the stage with a huge smile on her face, while Anthony would sing higher than his normal background bass to add some fun to the mix, putting his hands up in the sky and prompting the audience to do the same. You could tell that these were musicians who enjoyed making music and who didn’t belong anywhere else than up on that stage.
It’s amusing to think of Oh Wonder as belonging on that stage, because the original intent of their one-song-a-month project was to make songs for other musicians to sing. Josephine and Anthony had both been involved in different music related projects in the past, and as they explained to the audience on Thursday night, they decided to start the “Oh Wonder” project as a way to write songs for other people. It was the world pulling them in, as they put it, that allowed them to be graced by all these people. It was truly humbling to watch them talk about how lucky they feel before they sung a crowd favorite, “All We Do.” “All We Do” was an acoustic performance up until the last chorus, during which more instruments were added in for contrast, and it was such a beautiful performance. During the second chorus, they asked everyone to sing along, and you could hear people throughout the room sing, “I’ve been upside down/I don’t wanna be the right way round/Can’t find paradise on the ground,” and you could see the joy that comes from hearing the lyrics of your song being sung back to you on their faces. You could hear everyone in the crowd singing along to this song about, in the words of Josephine, finding what it is that makes you invincible and letting that thing pull you into a new world.
For the encore, they played two of my favorites, “Ultralife” and “Drive.” It was the perfect ending to the beginning of my journey with Oh Wonder, as “Drive” was the first song of theirs that I was introduced to, and “Ultralife” was the beginning of my ever-growing love for more of their music. By the end of the show, I didn’t want it to be over. I wanted them to keep singing and playing their hearts out. The Oh Wonder concert was fun, exciting, thrilling and a pleasure to be graced by. If you ever hear Oh Wonder is playing near you, make sure to get tickets. I’ll be sure to do so.
Oh Wonder released their most recent album, “Ultralife,” in July.
Contact Jourdann Fraser at jourdann ‘at’ stanford.edu.