Wild Child is a band with Central Texas roots that has been steadily building since its 2011 debut "Pillow Talk," a Spotify-friendly album that had surprisingly sharp, dark edges.
Over three more albums, including its latest, "Expectations," released in February, the folksy-pop group has expanded its sound and broadened its producing roster around lead singer Kelsey Wilson’s soaring candy-salty vocals and the frankly gorgeous songwriting alchemy she shares with vocalist/ukulele maestro Alexander Beggins.
They write great, wistful, spiky love songs. If there’s any boozy, desperately lovelorn sentiment you’ve ever felt, Wilson has probably sung about it. With four albums and a few one-offs (they once did a lovely little ditty for a Purina commercial), they’ve toured the heck out of their sturdy catalog of crowd-pleasing songs and have tightened up their percussion, strings and guest horn sections (when available) to Swiss-watch precision.
That seven or eight years of hard work paid off Thursday night at the group’s first "Austin City Limits" television taping, where Wild Child’s giddy energy — not always captured on the studio versions of its songs — crackled. On the amped-up title track from its last album, "Fools," which opened the show, to "Alex," the lead track from "Expectations," Wilson’s big voice filled ACL Live and the band’s road-tested material sounded large and in charge.
Wild Child records an episode of "Austin City Limits" on June 21 at ACL Live. Scott Newton/KLRU-TV
But what makes Wild Child so lovable to its fans, apart from the winsome songs themselves, is the band’s affability. Wilson, who traditionally takes the stage barefoot, and Beggins kept their in-song banter on songs such as "The One" and they’re not above cracking each other up mid-performance. If they were nervous about hitting the big "ACL" TV stage, it translated into explosive energy on the the first trio of songs, the crescendo of "Take It" and a powerhouse "My Town."
With a guest set of horns, "1996" and "Crazy Bird" pumped and swung bigger, even if the thread at times got a little muddled on the otherwise thrillingly woozy "Rillo Talk," a blasted-out "Stitches" and "Back and Forth," a new song that sounds more catchy than resonant.
They can have a lot of fun on songs like "The Tale of You and Me," the only song from "Pillow Talk" performed. But when Wilson and Beggins had the stage alone for "Break Bones" or when the whole band settled into a focused, sonic meditation with "Sinking Ship," it felt like the world stopped.
Much was made of the band’s hometown ties; though it feels like they’re always touring, Wild Child got its start in Central Texas and always saves album releases and homecoming performances for Austin.
"We really wouldn’t exist without this city," Wilson said during the taping. "We’re home."
The episode will be part of the 44th season of "Austin City Limits" and the band will perform at Blues on the Green on July 18.
The Tale of You and Me
Break You Down
Back & Forth
Think It Over
Encore: Bad Girl