Big smiles and big choruses are front and centre as 2022′s most sublime rock sensations, Wet Leg, deliver a sparkling Irish debut. The duo of Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers have spent the past 12 months living out their headiest indie pop fantasies, their chart-topping self-titled album earning a sweeping five Grammy nominations and the support of Harry Styles.
The ex-One Direction dandy massively expanded the Wet Leg fan base when he covered their fizzling ditty Wet Dream for the BBC Live Lounge. He gave it the full Styles’ socks. And yet his version lacks the turbocharged vivaciousness that bubbles through the song as performed at the Academy by Teasdale and Chambers.
Wet Leg is on the final night of an exhausting trek around Ireland and Britain, with a trip to the US to follow later in the week. It’s that point in the touring cycle at which some artists would consider throwing in the towel or start to pine for the obscurity from which they emerged.
But Teasdale and Chambers effortlessly replicate the wit and wholesomeness threaded through their debut album Wet Leg – a top-four hit in Ireland and a number-one in the UK (they are the first group from the Isle of Wight to top the British charts).
It’s one of those great records that feels agreeably disposable on the surface yet which is gradually revealed to contain multitudes. Those multitudes largely have to do with a painful romantic split endured by Teasdale, who does not spare her ex. “I loved you, that was crazy/’Cause you just don’t motivate me,” she declares on the fantastically caustic, Ur Mum.
This is a short and sweet concert, fuelled by Teasdale’s big-sister charisma and Chambers’ spooky magnetism (they share guitar playing and vocals). Standing next to each other, they’re one of those great chalk and cheese pairings pop throws up occasionally.
Teasdale excels as the hair-flailing front person. Chambers speaks and sings so quietly that – excuse me, what? – you have to learn to make out what she’s saying.
They’re the Simon and Garfunkel of the student disco, the Sam and Frodo of the post-Pixies mosh pit. Appropriately they even come on the strains of the Hobbit theme Lord of the Rings – an acknowledgment of their devotion to JRR Tolkien.
Accompanied by a trio of backing musicians with Rasputin-style shoulder-length tresses, they’re clearly up for some head-banging wizardry. Yet rather than whisk us off to Middle Earth our destination is the eternal indie club.
I Don’t Wanna Go Out perkily repurposes the riff from David Bowie’s The Man Who Sold The World. And the aforementioned Ur Mum asks us to consider what vintage Talking Heads might sound like soundtracking Ackley Bridge. It then culminates in an audience participation scream that will have ears ringing for hours afterwards.
They finish with their two best songs, the effervescent Angelica – Barak Obama is a fan – and then their breakout, Chaise Longue, a favourite of Foo Fighter David Grohl. Illuminated by the weirdo drollery of classic Pixies and the coolest-kids-in-class stomp of prime Elastica, the latter is chortle-in-your-sleeve funny and drop-dead imperious.
Teasdale beams broadly as she delivers the zinging lyrics (“Is your mother worried?/ Would you like us to assign someone to worry your mother?”). Her enthusiasm is reflected back at her in the sea of grins bobbing around the venue.