Following a splendid performance from this very promising young London band last May at the old Zodiac (gig 917), I was left looking forward to an album, or at least some new releases to keep up their then-forward momentum and increasing profile. So it was a bit of a surprise to hear nothing for the rest of the year, the Wolf almost going in hibernation... T’was a pleasure then, when a Spring tour was announced in advance of their debut album, finally set for June, with the Trinity our best shout, so I booked tix before it quickly sold out… guess I wasn’t the only one anticipating more from Wolf Alice!
Beef joined me this time, and we picked up Dean, who was staying with his girlfriend near Chippenham, on the way, for a typically dank and drizzly Easter drive down the M4, parking in Cabot and wandering around to this excellent evocative old church venue. We bumped into old friends Kiron and Alison from Bristol, waiting outside and lamenting their ticket-less status for this sellout, then reluctantly left them to get out of the rain. First support Bloody Knees were on, rocking an obvious blend of slacker grunge riffery and lazy vocal growling, that sounded like Nirvana. Exactly like Nirvana, in fact! We had fun spotting which Nirvana track each of their numbers sounded like (pretty easy, really…) and remarked that, although they were actually quite good at what they were doing, it was all a little blatant. By this time, happily, Kiron and Alison had scored some spare tix and joined us inside, so we chatted while main support The Magic Band plied a very innocuous, insubstantial brand of 60’s influenced beat pop, with occasional hints of Weezer-esque simple chunky powerpop, particularly in the set’s latter stages.
We took a wander nearer the front, stage right, running into a couple of Kiron and Alison’s other friends prior to the entrance, onto the blood-red backlit and smoke-swathed stage, of Wolf Alice at 9.45, heralded by a squalling noise backing track and greeted by squeals – literally, squeals – of delight from their young massive. And they were “on it” from the outset, with the bone-crunching power and battering-ram thrust of opener “Fluffy”, the boys already kinetic and mobile, and Ellie Rowsell, ice-maiden cool in black, a fragile yet hard-edged visual focus, delivering her stunning, slightly nasal vocals, ranging from glacial detachment to startlingly clear-eyed conviction. An equally superb “She” followed, and we already knew we were in for a treat tonight, a band really finding their form and feet in the live environment.
I recall labelling Wolf Alice a “snarling animal” last time out, and tonight they were even more so, with a fuller, more intense and way more dynamic sound, admittedly losing some of the more textural nuances of their studio work in the process, but replacing them with sheer bristling ferocity. For me tonight’s performance set them well on the way to deserving the prefix, “The Mighty…”, as they totally transcended their recorded output, becoming more strident, more powerful… just More! Newie “Storms” saw Ellie’s vocal gymnastics and a repeated building hookline leading to a Curve-like rap powering the song along, whilst “You’re A Germ” was magnificent, an amped up thrill-ride with a none-more-punk chorus, greeted by a wildly flailing moshpit. Some light and shade in the set too, with the quieter “Soapy Water” and the hushed opening to “Blush”, which nevertheless led to an anthemic crescendo.
Set closer “Giant Peach” was the appositely-named peach of the night, though; kicking off with Ellie and bassist Theo hamming it up with some side by side 80’s glam metal “hair band” guitar posing, then its’ relentless rhythm saw a circle pit open up, then burst into a bat-shit crazy frenzy at the song’s crescendo, sucking me into the mosh and down the front with it, and prompting Ellie to remark incredulously, “thank you so much… THAT was amazing!”
An unplanned encore saw bassist Theo crowdsurf over my head at its’ conclusion, before I scrounged a set-list and gathered my thoughts with the peeps, at the end of a quite stunning performance from a band brimming with boundless promise. Nice people too, with drummer Joel and guitarist Joff popping out to meet their public, so I got my list signed, and recommended The Julie Dolphin (who I still hear strong hints of in Wolf Alice’s work – no bad thing at all!) to Joel. Finally and reluctantly, we headed off, reflecting on tonight’s show and this band. If they totally nail their forthcoming debut, “My Love Is Cool”, we could be looking at one of the Albums of the Year, and tonight might just end up being one of the Gigs of 2015, a night which really put the Wolf into Wolf Alice!