Wolf Alice

support N/A
author HES date 13/07/16 venue Lille Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

They were supposed to play here in February, but had to cancel due to the mega success of their debut release suddenly being nominated for everything in the spring award circuit – BRIT, Grammy, NME – you name it! But in their defence they did announce new dates in the same breath as cancelling. Some bands just cancel, say they’ll be back and you don’t see them again on Danish soil for years. It’s tough living on this small appendix of a country. But anyway – they’re back and now with plenty more touring experience and possibly more confidence than the last time I saw them at Northside 2015 – a show dominated by timidity and a dash of monsoon rain.

Unfortunately we don’t have photos from this show. Coverphoto by Homage Photography from Northside 2015

In spite of the long advance, neither band or booker have had time to find even a local warm up band – but luckily the crowd is pretty gung-ho, not needing nursing to greet their heroes as they casually stroll unto the stage twenty minutes late. It’s a very mixed crowd – ranging from people in their 50s down to middle-teens. Most people look very fashionable. The room is pretty packed in spite of the gig being in the middle of traditional Danish summer vacation.

The show starts off shaky with a parade of the catchiest songs in the band’s still limited arsenal: “Your Loves Whore”, “You’re A Germ”, “Freazy” and “Bros”. The band however seems a little hurried and also like they are playing a bit by numbers here. However, at the energetic intro of “Lisbon” the mood seems to change among the band members as they realize the crowd can sing along to more than just the basics, like some kind of litmus test has just taken place.

It’s still obvious that vocalist Ellie Rowsell is not a “big” personality in the sense of having the larger than life showmanship character that is usually ascribed to the vocalist. However, when I saw the band at last year’s Lollapalooza Berlin it seemed that already then she had come a bit out of her shell and tonight she does greet the crowd a couple of times. But it’s not only that she is timid I realize – it’s also because she is essentially singing both her own vocals and the backup vocals from the record while switching between two different mics, as well as playing guitar – sometimes even the lead. With a setup where 4 out of 4 band members have mics it seems strange that no one has offered to maybe do a couple of the “oh oh oh”s that don’t have to be blessed by Rowsell’s mythical vocal chords in particular.

But what vocal chords! During “Blush” in the encore section of the show it becomes pretty clear that she has a good vocal range – but what impresses me the most are the screams of tracks like “Fluffy”. They make it obvious why Wolf Alice is hyped more than your average easy-listening grunge-influenced soft rock: There are so many small artistic anglings that stick out as small masterpieces. Delivering those in plenteous are Joff Oddie and his guitar. The man is first off extremely energetic, making somewhat up for what Rowsell doesn’t deliver in this area. But impressingly much of the atmospheric noise of the record he replays using sampling to create synth’ish waves. Later on in the show he mixes in everything from solid melody lines to Spanish style guitar.

The absolute high point of the night however comes from a surprising place: From behind the drum kit. As I listened to the record I did notice a male voice on the track “Swallowtail” but attributed some of it to a back up vocalist and the rest to Rowsell as the tone of voice was immensely high – but alas! I was fooled! As bassist Joel Amey asks for lights to direct the attention to the drum kit, it’s hard to really figure out what is going on as Oddie is solidly blocking my view of the action. What I at first think is a backingtrack of the vocals turn out to be Amey’s blindingly beautiful voice. He ends up being the voice behind most of the vocals I had ascribed Rowsell and doing this flawlessly even through the songs noise rock crescendo.

However, as songs start atop each other and the most of the tracks in contrast to “Swallowtail” stay mostly in the energetic end of the rhythm scale, it’s hard not to feel rushed. At the same time all present on stage seem very dedicated to making everything sound absolutely perfect, panicking when tuning instead of cracking a joke, saying hi or even just accepting the silence for a little while. I am afraid the band in spite of their overwhelming and sudden success still struggle a bit with confidence in the material. The show starts out very rushed because of this sense of nervousness. However, the more wild and noisy ending seems to fit the band better. Among the best songs tonight are “Moaning Lisa Smile” with an amazing echoed guitar riff, the circular droning of “Fluffy”, sultry basslines of “She”, singalongs for “Turn To Dust” and lastly the distorted, brit-rock’y “Giant Peach”. Also showcasing how many brilliant songs this band has already achieved to released in spite of only summing up to around 25 in all.

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