By Greg Evans, Digital Arts Editor
On the back of winning the BRIT Award for Best UK Band last week, Wolf Alice were electric performing their new album ‘Blue Weekend’ at Bristol’s O2 Academy.
With lockdowns and COVID-19 surges cancelling gig-after-gig, it was second time lucky for the 1600 fans who crammed together to experience the band’s newest material since 2017’s ‘Visions of a Life.’
The rumblings of a good night were felt from the get-go, with support act Matt Maltese serenading the floor with his homegrown blend of indie-rock and Bowie-esque vocals. Having supported the likes of Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age themselves, Wolf Alice give Maltese a fair whack at success, marking him as one to watch for the coming year.
Strutting onto the stage, bottle blonde band leaders Ellie Rowsell and Theo Ellis dripped confidence. Smashing into the crunching chords of ‘Smile’, the crowd were immediately in raptures. It’s the kind of mixed crowd that makes good gigs excellent; a raging pit in the middle, a choir of die-hard fans on the sides, teens who’d dragged their dad at the front, and dads who’d dragged their teens at the back.
Their third studio album, ‘Blue Weekend’ is, simply put, solid gold. Punching its way to number one in the first week of its release and receiving a Mercury Prize nomination in the process, there was little doubt that this wouldn’t be a stormer of a show. The production is a heady mix of gutsy alt Brit-rock and New York grunge. Turn left at 90s Sonic Youth and turn right at 2016 Alex Turner - you’ve arrived at your destination. It’s a somewhat timeless amalgamation, but somehow distinctly fresh, distinctly Wolf Alice.
It’s immediately obvious why chart music’s biggest names are scrambling for Wolf Alice to join them on tour, with Harry Styles securing them for the European leg of his critically acclaimed (read: TikTok famous) ‘Love on Tour’ this summer. The room is charged from beginning to end, vibrating with vigour that could fill a venue at least five times this size.
The band are able to flip the switch from screaming rock to gentle romance with confident ease. It’s a total feat, and the energy in the room never dips. Within minutes we move from the screaming chorus of ‘Play The Greatest Hits’, with its gnarly chords and ripping guitar solos, to Rowsell sitting on the edge of the stage gently announcing that it's ‘time for a little sad one.’
There’s a repertoire of classics developing, and Wolf Alice are keen to play to their strengths in this respect. This is no more evident with the encore ‘Don’t Delete the Kisses’, which is met with a communal groan of bittersweet relief. This is a song that has become an anthem for fans - for heartache, post-breakup-sex, and heartache again. As Rowsell cradles the mic, and the lights go down one last time, the room is heavy with that special kind of nostalgia that only good music can bring on. It’s nice. It’s what live music is supposed to do.
When the speakers finally cut out the room is saturated with sweat, love and light. This is a band performing at their peak, and you get the sense that everyone in the room knows it. This tour cements Wolf Alice as Britain’s best band right now, and long may they reign.
Featured image: Catrin Rees