Vocal electro-pop duo Oh Wonder perform two sold out shows at Rough Trade NYC.
When Josephine Vander Gucht was 18, she used to watch shows from behind the register at Rough Trade East (London) and dream of playing onstage with the band.
On Thursday, she got to live out that dream not once, but twice.
Vander Gucht is half of the duo Oh Wonder who hit the stage twice on Thursday for a pair of sold out performances at Rough Trade NYC. Vander Gucht and her other half, Anthony West, led the audience through the tracks of their debut eponymous album, released on September 4. “We can’t believe we’re up here,” gushed West, “We made that album at our house.”
Supported by a pair of O-W light structures behind them, the only thing that was remotely messy during the set was their hair, sexily tousled in between songs. Josephine has a mystical “wonder”-filled stage presence. She’s an expert at finding her light on stage and has a distinct emotion for every word in her lyrics. Her smile, flashed after every song, was infectious and worth the price of admission. It was impossible to take your eyes off her unless it was for her striking partner in crime. (Seriously, these are some of the best looking people in music, both genuinely charming and devastatingly good looking).
The show was a family affair, at least for the Vander Guchts. Justine’s brother lent support through the sax and her parents were on hand, having made the trek across the pond for the show. Turns out they were in for quite a surprise. Apparently the family made a pact that if Justine got a tattoo, they would get the same tattoo, in the same place And after sharing that on stage, Justine stepped back to reveal a freshly acquired tattoo from Los Angeles on her ankle. The tattoo read “Heart Hope,” which is the title of an Oh Wonder track. Anthony has a matching one on his arm. And it was likely, one of the more unique intros into a live song.
It’s hard to determine which part of the show was the most wonderful. Was it the timed O-W lights, impeccably flashed with every down beat? Their wavy hair in those splashes of light? The multiple instruments, including a drum pad played as a drum (for the record, that’s what’s provides the money sound in their song “Dazzle”)? The thrill of being part of a band’s first show in New York? Was is the way Josephine rocked her keyboard? Was it the way that the songs somehow sounded even better live than on the album, a feat most bands never accomplish? Was it the way Justine’s handling of the word “courage” slayed us all during the stripped down performance of “Midnight Moon” (the only track that was modified from the album treatment)? Was it the magical feeling you get when you sway with 100 people in a small space? Was it the awesome line for the shirts they were selling? Or was it the surprise tattoos?
The good news? We don’t have to decide. During the show, the duo decided to make their next album here, perhaps after finding some New York ice cream first. After all, West did tell us it was their “favorite city in the world.”
So, welcome to New York, Oh Wonder. It’s wonderful to have you. And we’ll see you again in January.