This Wolf Alice article was written by Ed Phillips, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse
One of the UK’s most exciting up-and-comers, grungy indie band Wolf Alice demonstrate their raw power in potential within the intimacy of Manchester’s Albert Hall.
Fluorescent lights set the scene. After some Drenge and Made Violent bangers turn my brain into mash, Joff Odie walks onstage. Then he walks off again, after a couple of minutes spent tuning his guitar. Anticipation hums in the air. What follows is an alt-rockathon that has a gradually swelling knot of fans bopping to the beat. Sonic Youth spring to mind, though comparisons to Hole and XX have also been made.
“We could build a perfect world” coos frontwoman Ellie Roswell, with a sort of airy fragility, and by the end of shoegazy tune ‘Your Love’s Whore’, I’m starting to believe her.
Innocence and experience, appearance and reality, finding yourself. These were themes central to Angela Carter’s ‘Wolf Alice’, and they seem important to the band as well. “Are you wild like me, raised by wolves and other beasts?” she murmurs, in the minimalist, yet tender poppy ode to friendship, ‘Bros’. Some die-hard fans are wild enough to crowd surf.
By the time ‘Lisbon’ is being powered through, plastic cups are periodically sailing through the air. The tension that was built by the stop-and-starts of ‘Your Love’s Whore’ only continues to climb like a vine in the air around us. Haunting ballad ‘Silk’ is chanted like a mantra, whilst the melodious ‘The Wonderwhy’ finds the band at their most philosophical, and as in ‘Freazy’, shades of hip-hop can be heard.
‘She’ poignantly explores gender dysphoria to a hypnotic rhythm. ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’ is a humourous tribute to Lisa Simpson with a riff that resembles Gorillaz’s 5/4’s. ‘Swallowtail’ is a delicate contrast to it’s predecessor, ‘Storms’, and if Joel Amey’s vocals sometimes waver, we are too enthralled by the beauty of the instrumentation to notice. In any case, the quartet’s capacity for keeping us intrigued is impressive, as is Roswell’s skill as a songwriter, and their musicianship as a whole. They sound fresh, and as excited to be here as we are.
Then the wool comes off. “One! Two! Three! Four! Five! Six! Seven! You ain’t going to heaven!” she shrieks like a banshee. With all the power of a thunderclap, the transition is made from poppy rock to thrashy rock as Wolf Alice assault our senses with ‘You’re A Germ’.
Fluorescent lights shred the scene. Electric, fiery, mellow, bloody… the colours dance frantically about the stage as a smoky mist creeps up around Odie’s ankles. Stars fluctuate and shape-shift in the blackness behind them. In a rush of adrenaline, Theo Ellis and Odie jostle as they play. Some fans do likewise. An encore comes and goes, and Wolf Alice moves in for the kill. It’s not overkill. The band play three of their most introspective, dreamy songs. But it’s a kill nevertheless.
“Manchester!” and with that, they’re gone.
They’re gone, and I only have a pleasant ringing between my ears, where my brain used to be, to remember them by. Also, a cool poster. But I digress.
Afterwards, a thoughtful couple describe the performance as having been too “manufactured” for their tastes. And yet part of Wolf Alice’s charm is that they’re unabashedly trying very hard to give us their very best. Perfectly complemented by supporting bands Made Violent and Drenge, few things are cooler than experiencing Wolf Alice’s love first-hand.
Once upon a time, they were pups. A few friends jamming together. Fast forward five years and the pups have grown fangs. They’re playing in front of thousands at the Brixton Academy. They’re soaking up acclaim with their latest release. And their snappy panache and vigour is infectious to the extent that I have to ask…
It’s not a full moon tonight, is it?