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Wolf Alice fans have had rotten luck of late. Last summer a computer glitch prevented many from watching the London four-piece perform at a virtual Glastonbury Festival. Then their UK tour was delayed due to Covid. And on Friday Storm Eunice prevented scores of fans from attending this, the first of three sold out and long-awaited hometown shows. Which was a shame. Because Wolf Alice are currently riding the crest of a wave — a wave that, aptly, seems to be gathering ferocious momentum.
Wolf Alice are a refreshingly old-fashioned band, and this was a refreshingly old-fashioned concert. Having won the Brit Award for Best Group earlier this month, and having headlined their first major festival last summer (Latitude) and released one of 2021’s most accomplished albums (Blue Weekend), this show could have been a bells-and-whistles spectacle. But it shunned almost every trope you’d associate with a modern concert: video screens, graphics, a fancy stage set, lasers or costume changes. Rather it featured singer and guitarist Ellie Rowsell and her bandmates on a practically empty stage, flanked at the back and sides by floor-to-ceiling curtains. And it was all the better for it.
Spiritually-speaking, the band sit somewhere between Hollywood Hills and Herne Hill: their music combines the faded glamour and folky lushness of California with the sweatbox scuzziness of south London. Hence there was no contradiction between the opulent drapery and Hawaiian Tiki entrance music and the ear-pounding grunge of opening number Smile. The crowd went bananas as Rowsell stood in the eye of the storm in white ball gown and cowboy boots. “I am what I am and I’m good at it / And you don’t like me, well that isn’t f--king relevant,” she rapped.
Wolf Alice have many shades. The woozy indie of Bros prompted a hair-raising singalong while the gentle No Hard Feelings — think acoustic Stevie Nicks — saw Rowsell sit on the lip of the stage accompanied just by Joff Oddie on guitar. It was pin-drop quiet as Rowsell sang the line about crying in the bathtub to Amy Winehouse’s Love is a Losing Game. She barely spoke between songs, leaving the talk to bassist Theo Ellis, who — incidentally — had all the moves and had clearly been studying the greats. He was Sid Vicious one minute, Nicky Wire the next. The highlight was The Last Man on Earth, which remains Wolf Alice’s towering achievement.
The big question is, where next? Once these UK shows finish, Wolf Alice tour the US before returning to Europe for a support slot with Harry Styles. If they can break America and co-opt Styles’s army of devoted, mainstream pop fans to their cause, then their dizzying trajectory will only continue. And watch this space regarding this year’s Glastonbury.
Across town in Greenwich, hours before this thrilling show, Storm Eunice ripped the canopy of the O2 arena clean off. Wolf Alice didn’t need a gale to raise the roof.
Until March 9. Tickets: wolfalice.co.uk