Wolf Alice is an English alternative rock band from London. The group formed in 2010, and acquired bassist Theo Ellis and drummer Joel Amery in 2012. The group performed at Rock City in Nottingham on 27th February, as part of a tour that follows the release of their third album. Elliot Fox reviews.
Despite various stops and starts due to COVID-19, Wolf Alice have worked their way through a fair few UK shows since the release of their third album, ‘Blue Weekend’, last year. Warmed up after their four-year break from live music, the band’s performances are tighter than ever, and the on-stage chemistry, especially in the heavier, instrumental moments, is something to behold.
The London four-piece are really only just getting started though, with over 70 shows booked for 2022, spread over an American tour, a European one, support for Harry Styles, and various festival lineups. It wouldn’t be surprising then, if a little gig in Nottingham’s semi-prestigious Rock City was only a stepping stone for such massive stars, but admirably, the band turned up with energy and a desire to make the gig feel special.
After Matt Maltese’s smooth, passionate support set the mood, frontwoman Ellie Rowsell and her merry band of blokes stepped out, all in black, besides drummer Joel Amey’s flowery blue shirt, and bassist Theo’s neon pink guitar strap. Ellie stuck out like a sore thumb amongst her band at first, standing gaunt and nervous, dismissing the crowd for the time being. All nerves faded into the background, though, when keyboard player and live member Ryan Malcs kicked off their new-age go-to opener, Smile.
The release of anticipation, and Theo’s enthusiastic bass playing made for a euphoric moment- the floor was shaking
Of all of the new crop of Wolf Alice tracks, Smile is perhaps the most faithful to the band’s original heavy sound, and it’s aptly named for the grins it instantly painted on the faces of the crowd. The release of anticipation, and Theo’s enthusiastic bass playing made for a euphoric moment – the floor was shaking.
Before the roars of the crowd had even begun to fade, the band doubled down with certified banger and personal favourite, You’re a Germ. Ellie’s counting chorus, now seven years old, did feel a bit trope-y and out of place in their current, mature setlist. Fans didn’t really seem to care though, and belted out the lyrics, just as vigorously, without hesitation.
Their fanbase can feel almost as if they were growing up alongside the band
It’s by no fluke that Wolf Alice have nurtured such a beloved reputation and relationship with their fanbase. The band’s 12-year musical journey has been both exciting and warming to witness, and Ellie, Theo, Joff and Joel are almost unrecognizable from the people they used to be. Theo, who was an unstoppable force of energy throughout the night, spoke of Wolf Alice’s early gigs, including their first ever mosh pit in Nottingham. Wolf Alice have written, released and played music with a rare passion and consistency, so that their fanbase can feel almost as if they were growing up alongside the band.
Although fans of all ages attended the gig, the pent up, angsty excitement in the front few rows of teenagers was palpable. An enthusiastic crowd ended up acting as a double-edged sword at Rock City. The louder, grittier tracks benefitted, with huge vacuums of space forming to suck in jumping fans for big, sweaty collisions. The movement and dancing was sustained throughout all eight minutes of Visions of a Life, a cycling, aggressive post-punk track with spades of dissonance and release.
Quieter numbers like Safe From Heartbreak (if you never fall in love) and even crowd pleaser Don’t Delete The Kisses really suffered, however, as the crowd overpowered Ellie, smothering her trained, refined vocals with their harsh, drunken ones.
Throughout the more audible moments of the set, however, Rowsell was at peak performance, both vocally and with guitar work on her gorgeous black telecaster. She’s impressively versatile, pulling out controlled high pitched screeches in All The Greatest Hits and smooth, low, melodic moments in Last Man on The Earth.
The best moment of the show was during Moaning Lisa Smile, another short, sharp punch in the gut from the ‘My Love is Cool’ era. After the second chorus, all lights cut out besides a spotlight trained on Ellie, who smashed the solo out of the park. It was a track that wouldn’t have been the same had it not been for the excellent lighting, which was consistently jaw-dropping. Walls of smokey red and blue light swept across the crowd to bring ambiance to Planet Hunter, one of the strongest whole band performances. The strobes weren’t too bright or overused, and snapped pinpoint to each snare on tracks like Giant Peach. It’s all credit to this new era of Wolf Alice’s live shows.
What you’re getting here is a full scale production, a perfect product, a spectacle.
Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
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