It’s impossible to pigeonhole Wolf Alice. Defying easy definition by sitting somewhere in the apparently vast chasm between folk and grunge, the London-based foursome have built up a cult following by relentlessly touring underground venues for the last five years. And now following appearances on films like ‘Trainspotting 2’ and the successful launch of their acclaimed second album ‘Visions of a Life’, they are selling out venues they once could have only dreamed of playing.
Manchester’s O2 Apollo, with a (sold out) capacity of 3500, was the setting for tonight’s show. Opening were Superfood, who’ve completely revamped their sound from their indie-Britpop debut into a funky, sample-heavy style. The highlights were the lyrically dark ‘Unstoppable’ and the jaunty reggae beats of ‘I Can’t See’, though there was some audience discontent as their most popular song, ‘Mood Bomb’, had failed to make the cut in the transition.
However the audience, bedecked in the glitter that’s become a staple of Wolf Alice’s live shows, were here for one thing only. The rapturous applause that greeted the band’s arrival was equalled by the dazzled silence as the band opened with ‘Heavenward’, with white spotlights reflecting off the instruments, sending beams of pure light dancing across the auditorium with every slight shift.
Lead singer Ellie Rowsell has one of the most versatile voices in modern music. From ethereal harmonies and wistful ballads on love and friendship, to the violent gut punch of Yuk Foo’s snarling punk, she has a volatile, mercurial stage presence. The switch from “Go heavenward / like all earth angels should” to “Now I’m fucked and that fucks you too / so fuck the world” in the space of a minute is a genuine shock to the senses – Wolf Alice are a band that will keep you on your toes.
We caught up with her after the show finished and asked what her favourite song on the set was – “Probably ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’, though it changes every night”. The audience would strongly agree with her there, with the single from the recent album already established as a firm fan favourite – so much of the crowd was singing along they almost drowned out the band.
One of the unexpected highlights was ‘St. Purple and Green’, one of the quieter tracks on the album that came alive in a green miasma of fog on stage. Every chord of guitarist Joff Oddie’s monster chorus riffs sent electric frissions through the crowd. Though this was only a warm up for ‘Visions of a Life’, a thunderous track with echoes of Black Sabbath and enough reminders of our own mortality to hush the hall for a brief moment.
At the start of the night, the audience stood spellbound as the band bathed in white spotlights. By the time Wolf Alice finished with ‘Giant Peach’, a growling love letter to London, the writhing crowd were the ones bathed in sweat, but the grins on their faces suggested they didn’t hold any complaints. And neither did I.
‘Visions of a Life’ is out now, via Dirty Hit Records