Thursday 26th March
The Ritz, Manchester
The past few years must have been a whirlwind for London born Wolf Alice, after garnering the attention of Radio One early on, the band have rubbed shoulders with B-Town heroes Peace as their support act, warmed up the Alt-J fans alongside fellow Londoners Gengahr at the O2 Arena and been hailed as the most blogged about band in the country by Radio Six back in 2013. Now with their debut full-length ready to drop in June, and a brilliant lead single in the form of Giant Peach already taking its first steps, the tidal wave that is Wolf Alice is ready to crest.
Walking onstage to the childish glee of a xylophone-laden intro, a perfect juxtaposition to the angst to come, the band look like they're on the cusp of great things. This feeling seemed to be shared by their fans, pre-gig I found myself swarmed by fans jumping 4-steps a time to get to the stage, all because they had heard the smallest glimpse of the band's opening. To have a fan base that strong with only an EP and a handful of singles readily available is testament to the band's ethos and vision. A few tunes in, Ellie gave a beaming speech about the band's excitement for the June release of the album, her voice bearing the joy of fulfilment as they dropped into a tune from said album. Cathartic heartbeat drums hurtling through the venue, it felt like a band truly coming to life.
The sound of Wolf Alice can, for me, be best described as a beautiful solution of shoegazed dreamy silk melodies and muscle stiffening yet lovingly chiseled angst. It’s the transitions between such polar opposites that provide the band's constant live energy and power. At moments the vocals take on an ethereal, reverberant texture. Comparable to more experimental artists such as Bjork, the band turning a modest sized venue into a stadium, with vocals cascading off invisible walls hundreds of feet away. Then, with no word other than a well placed snare, everything changes. The guitars take on a thicker texture and the vocals become a war cry. This mix of folk-grounded melody and grunge-inspired freak-outs has given Wolf Alice one of the most varied fan-bases I have seen in a while. Stood up in the rafters, it was warming to see a pocket of sweat-covered grunge addicts, front of stage, bouncing off walls and torsos, whilst toward the back of the balcony sits a couple on a first date and a group pre-drinking at the bar. I think it can be said Wolf Alice can do a job of bringing people together.
Even Wolf Alice themselves wear this mass appeal vibe clearly on their sleeves. Vocalist Ellie Rowsell embodying the subtle and slick motions of their music, effortlessly cool yet approachable. Flanked by the blurring silhouettes of Joff Oddie and Theo Ellis, taking up guitar and bass respectively, channeling the more chaotic elements of their sound. All backed by the beating heart of percussion provided by drummer Joel Amey. If there is one aspect to truly drive home Wolf Alice's live show, or the band as a whole, it’s the roar of the crowd as the band leave, desperate for more.
The debut album, "My Love Is Cool" is available June 22nd 2015 through Dirty Hit / RCA.
Words by Sean Toohey
Images courtesy of Michael Bond