Two Nights in February with Wolf Alice | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Sunday, May 22nd, 2022  

Wolf Alice

Two Nights in February with Wolf Alice,

Feb 28, 2022 Photography by Andy Von Pip Web Exclusive
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The hottest ticket in town right now has to be the Wolf Alice tour, so with the UK leg already in full swing, Under the Radar sent two of its writers into the provincial hotbeds of Liverpool and Nottingham to see what all the fuss is about.

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Mountford Hall, Liverpool, UK, 22nd February 2022

Words and Photography : Andy Von Pip

Some bands have a certain sense of magic about them from the get-go. The first time I caught Wolf Alice, quite by chance, after some rather dreary music industry conference, the band hadn’t quite settled on the line-up they have now, and they played to a handful of people. Between songs, they seemed shy, but when they began playing their stripped back set they were totally in the zone, with singer Ellie Rowsell and guitarist Joff Oddie seeming to share an almost telepathic musical connection. You intuitively knew they had something special about them.

Without sounding like a “How It Started - How It’s Going ” internet meme it’s been an absolute joy to watch them grow in stature as musicians and performers and evolve from playing to audiences of thirty people to playing to hundreds and then thousands. They’ve certainly put in the hours in, paid their dues and achieved success by not only being brilliant but by touring relentlessly and creating the sort of word of mouth buzz that can’t be manufactured. Which leads us on to the towering brilliance of Wolf Alice in 2022. After releasing their third album, Blue Weekend (read our review HERE) which many consider their Magnum opus, and having had their tour delayed, cancelled and rescheduled due to the coronavirus, Wolf Alice finally returned to the live arena. And what a return it was! Their performance at Liverpool’s Mountford Hall was nothing short of spectacular and clearly demonstrated that they are unquestionably the best band in the UK right now.

From the moment the band arrived on stage smiling and waving and powered into “Smile,” “You’re A Germ” and “Formidable Cool” you knew this was going to be a special show from a very special band. And they’ve never looked happier or more relaxed on stage, Joff Oddie’s guitar licks ranged from delicate fingerpicking and woozy intricate shoegaze to incendiary sonic grunge laden thunderbolts, drummer Joel Amey, resplendent in his Jesus and Mary Chain T-shirt, can play with nuance and subtly or if the song requires, like he’s holding” Mjolnir” aka Thor’s mighty hammer in each hand. Theo Ellis’ driving bass lines and stage moves kept the audience entertained and he was the most garrulous band member between songs, noting the audience were exuding “some serious energy for a Tuesday night.” These days Ellie Rowsell strides about the stage as if she owns it, which she clearly does. Her voice is just beautiful and she can switch between the feral Riot Grrrl Le Tigre roar of “Play The Greatest Hits” to the seductive beauty of “Feeling Myself” in heartbeat.

The set was obviously Blue Weekend heavy, and there were some genuine spine tingling moments such as the crowd joyously singing along to the dream-pop perfection of “How Can I Make It OK?” Or the modern-day equivalent of lighters in the air - mobile phone lights held aloft, swaying together to “The Last Man on The Earth” with Rowsell’s voice soaring with intense emotion and filling every inch of the 2 thousand plus capacity venue. After the shitshow, the world has endured with COVID this felt like a real “moment.”

Of course, fan favourites from previous albums made an appearance, the Edie Sedgwick inspired “Silk” from My Love Is Cool sounded simply majestic, “Planet Hunter” from Visions Of A Life melded pop perfection with some beautiful MBV style distortion whilst the serotonin rush of Rowsell’s heartfelt ode to friendship “Bros” never sounded better. The band really do have it all and mass moshing broke out when they unleashed the thundering grunge-pop of “Moaning Lisa Smile”, and “Giant Peach.”

It’s a perfectly judged set and when the band close the night with “Don’t Delete the Kisses” there’s absolutely no danger of the besotted audience doing that. This is a band at the absolute top of their game, if they are not on your “must see” band list , have a word with yourself and remedy the matter immediately, if not sooner.

Rock City, Nottingham, UK, Sunday 27th February 2022

Words: Dom Gourlay

Without going over old ground and regurgitating what’s already been said, it’s been an absolute pleasure to witness the continued ascension of Wolf Alice. From those early shows supporting the likes of Swim Deep and Peace, to their first headline tour and beyond to selling out Academy sized venues up and down the land. Tonight marks their third headline show at Nottingham’s Rock City, and while the quartet doesn’t have any connections to the city per se, there is always a spark that ignites a chemistry of some sort between both band and audience here.

Whether it’s their humility; even off the back of winning their first Brit Award for Best British Group a few weeks ago while having a number one album that’s been hovering on or around the top spot since its release nearly nine months ago; they’re still as humble now as they were back in the summer of 2013 when headlining the Bodega on their first visit to the city. It’s probably fair to say Wolf Alice are also one of the hardest working bands out there, having either been on tour, writing or doing both for the best part of ten years without barely pausing for breath.

So it’s gratifying to see such a phenomenal work rate rewarded by the success they’re enjoying right now. On what isn’t the warmest of Sunday evenings, the air of anticipation from the 2000 plus packed into Rock City creates a sweat encrusted clammy vibe rarely experienced post COVID. Indeed, the reception afforded to the four members of Wolf Alice as they walk on stage is akin to that of a football captain collecting a major trophy. It’s also probably fair to say the demographic in here ranges from fourteen to sixty-plus, which again is a surefire measure of the band’s mainstream crossover appeal.

Indeed, it’s the way Wolf Alice transgress genres with consummate ease that makes them so appealing. You want pop? Then here’s “Don’t Delete The Kisses”. Punk rock? Hello “You’re A Germ”. Elegant dreampop? “How Can I Make It Ok” should be right up your street, and so on and so forth. What also stands out (and has done from the outset) is the way each member compliments one another, both musically and from a performative point of view. While singer and guitarist Ellie Rowsell is understandably a focal point, fellow guitarist Joff Oddie is a hyperactive livewire, constantly rousing the audience into joining in. Which they do with wilful abandon, participating in a call and response to each word of every song that eventually becomes a singalong with Wolf Alice.

Aided and abetted by the taut rhythm section of Theo Ellis on bass and Joel Amey behind the drumkit, Wolf Alice are a force to be reckoned with. A band at the top of their games right now, yet still undoubtedly with more to come. The peak of their potential still ahead of them. Understandably, tonight’s set draws heavily from last year’s third long player Blue Weekend and having only heard these songs in the flesh for the first time this evening, it’s probably fair to say they resonate even more clinically live than on record. Opener “Smile” is perhaps the most effective way to kickstart any show, “Play The Greatest Hits” even more vitriolic in this setting while a swooning “Safe From Heartbreak (If You Never Fall In Love)” gets the balance right amidst the rockier moments of the set.

Whereas with My Love Is Cool and Visions Of A Life, many of those songs were already familiar, having been part of the band’s live set long before either record came out, it’s been the opposite here. Blue Weekend landing just as COVID restrictions started to ease, only this time without the benefit of a live road test beforehand. Unashamedly reserved for the encore, “The Last Man On Earth” is a true lighters-in-the-air moment. A song that will bring arenas to a standstill in future years, not to mention form the centre point of their inevitable Glastonbury headline slot come 2025 (you and I both know this has to happen!).

Notwithstanding their older material. “Bros” is dedicated to those that saw them in 2013, who are subsequently told to create a moshpit as lively as the one back then. While “Silk” remains as poignantly beautiful as ever, the yin before “Moaning Lisa Smile” and “Giant Peach” provides a crushing yang towards the tail end of the set.

If there’s a better live band than Wolf Alice doing the rounds at the minute, we’ve yet to see them. Make the best of these (fairly) intimate shows while you can and cherish them to your heart’s desire, because the world is their oyster and bigger stages surely beckon.




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