8th November | O2 Academy
There are very few superlatives that haven’t been used to praise Wolf Alice over the past few months, following the release of their splendid second record Visions Of A Life. Labelled ‘Britain’s Best Band’ by critics far and wide and having just released their truly exceptional sophomore effort, the North London outfit kicked off their near-sold out tour in Bristol with a big reputation and even bigger expectations. With the help of a scaled-up production, Wolf Alice crafted an emotional rollercoaster of riotous exhilaration and haunting beauty, simultaneously making the Academy feel intimate and eternal as they showcased a perfect parade of their versatility.
Opening the show were Birmingham group Superfood, who provided an infectious groove prominent in the recently released second LP, Bambino. Beginning with funky album opener ‘Where’s the Bass Amp?’ the duo brought irresistible flair and energy to the large crowd who had made the effort to see them. Mixing familiars like ‘You Can Believe’ with more sophisticated yet equally dynamic new songs such as the joyous ‘Natural Supersoul’, vocalist Dominic Ganderton and bassist Ryan Malcom showcased an effortless and striking chemistry in their performance. Ending with the eponymously titled, crowd-favourite ‘Superfood’, a delightfully tongue-in-cheek effort, the band further cemented their profile of being musically delicious.
Less gripping were New York based three-piece Sunflower Bean, who largely failed to excite the now-packed Academy with their cliché heavy style of uninspiring American psychedelic rock. With stylistic influences derived heavily from the early 1970s (guitarist Nick Killeen was a Bob Dylan lookalike in a dodgy cravat whilst drummer Jacob Fabre sported a Burt Reynolds-sequel moustache), the band hurtled through a vibrant yet messy set, although promise was shown in the form of precise new single ‘I was a Fool.’ The feeling remains though that Sunflower Bean, in their desperation to appear adventurous, are much like someone swimming in the deep end with armbands on, unable and unwilling to escape their comfort zone through fear of disappearing.
Entering to rapturous cheers, Wolf Alice launched into the swooping shoegaze chimes of ‘Heavenword’, after which bassist Theo Ellis triumphantly punched the air, encapsulating the band’s confidence. This was followed by the aptly named ‘Yuk Foo’, a two minute onslaught of fury and angst. With the pedestrian Country music of Shania Twain having recently kept their album off number one, the song’s calls of: “You bore me to death and I don’t give a shit”, would seem an appropriate way to address the injustice. The four-piece then tapped into their back catalogue, playing ‘Your Love’s Whore’ and ‘You’re a Germ’, with the line from the latter: “You ain’t going to heaven, cause I’m dragging you down to hell’ acting a a subtle reminder of the thematic progression between albums.
The highlight of the performance came in the form of ‘Don’t Delete the Kisses’, already a crowd favourite despite only being released a few months ago. Lead singer Ellie Rowsell ditched her guitar and wandered around the stage with powerful innocence through the mostly spoken-word tale of the pains and joys of love. Later in the set, ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’, one of the band’s earliest releases was received with typical unrestrained moshing before perhaps the most emotionally complex of Wolf Alice’s songs, ‘Bros’ was unleashed. A celebration of the beauties of your closest friendships and the memories which they hold, it is a song capable of bringing a tear to the eye whether those friends are listening next to you or unfathomably far away.
For the encore, the group verified their versatility through the juxtaposition of ‘Blush’, a goose-bump inducing ballad that celebrates the strength of Rowsell’s vocals, and ‘Giant Peach’, unleashing the full chaotic mayhem of those both on stage and off, a fitting finale. Having played a series of small and often remote venues through August as warm up for the full tour and with a Pyramid Stage performance from a couple of years ago that received rave reviews, Wolf Alice have and continue to prove with performances like Wednesday’s to be more than capable of conquering all forms of live environment.
Check out the video for ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’ below.