The reputation of Dream Wife’s live show preceded their stop in Minneapolis last night on the British pop-punk band’s first ever headlining U.S. tour, and they lived up to the hype.
A steamy rendition of “Hey Heartbreaker” kicked off the show, as the band’s original trio stood side by side at the front of the stage, singer Rakel Mjöll flanked by bassist Bella Podpadec and guitarist Alice Go. Mjöll’s fiery delivery has earned comparisons to Karen O, and her piercing stare surveyed the crowd as she belted out every refrain to some new heartbreaker she spied in the audience.
Dream Wife’s self-titled debut album is equal parts joyous consent and raucous resistance, with flirty riffs about making out and anthems against rape culture, and if the crowd at the Entry felt thin, it did nothing to diminish the band’s performance. Before launching into “Lolita,” Mjöll issued a request that may have been meant for the crowd as well as the sound booth: “Pump it up. A lot.”
Mjöll owned the stage with an aggressive stance and bright red lipstick that rendered every smirk legible. She wore an unbuttoned Yakult Swallows jersey (shout out to Japanese baseball sponsored by probiotic yogurt drinks!) under a flickering spotlight that seemed unequal to her intensity.
Backing vocals from Podpadec and Go on songs like “Kids” and “Spend the Night” registered more like growls than anything resembling three-part harmony. While wailing on the guitar, Alice Go’s face fixed in a hardened expression that called to mind Jehnny Beth of Savages. In contrast, Podpadec bounced along with her bass lines, working up a sweat. Mjöll bridged the gap between the two with a mix of fearsome screams and vocal lilt, often leaning back to drink in the spotlight. (Touring drummer Alex Paveley was mostly out of sight.)
“Somebody” is a feminist anthem tailor-made for these times, and the band knows it. Mjoll built up the crowd with some Gender Studies 101 — “Gender is a construct!” — then turned the song’s emphatic chorus, “I am not my body. I’m somebody,” into a call and response that won cheers from the crowd.
Following some warm banter about their first visit to the “the city of Prince,” Mjöll took a moment to recognize the night’s opening bands Strange Relations and Russo. Throughout this tour, Dream Wife partnered with Girls Rock to put their feminist credo into action by identifying local female/non-binary fronted bands to open their shows.
A raging rendition of “F.U.U.” closed the show, strobe lights making Mjöll’s threat to “Fuck you up, cut you up, fuck you up” unnervingly believable. The audience finally matched her energy, pogoing along, as a segued into “Let’s Make Out” gave Mjöll one more chance to coax the most reticent Minnesotans to dance.
With only one album to their name, Dream Wife’s tore through their set in 45 minutes, offering a sweet salve for music fans longing to see more femme power at center stage. They might not have been as explicit about their politics as opening band Strange Relations, who stated, “We stand with survivors,” but Dream Wife’s songs speak for themselves loud and clear.
Spend the Night
Love Without Reason
Act My Age
Let’s Make Out
Overheard in the crowd: “Who doesn’t believe Dr. Ford?” the incredulous dude next to me wants to know.