Never one to nest themselves into a familiar sound, Wolf Alice are a band that are in a constant forward motion. Forever in a state of perpetual evolution and experimentation, leading a mass of dedicated fans following them.
Each album from Wolf Alice leaves the listener slightly transcended. But they also ask a question usually found at the end of seasons of prestige television: how are they going to top that? Somehow they always do. You can’t help but question if they have any original ideas left. Every time they come back with new ways to subvert expectations.
Throughout these new re-inventions there is one major constant: that they know how to build up tension within a song. They know how to resolve it. But how do you mix up a track listing to carry this in a live setting from three crafted sequences of songs? Quite well, it seems. Delving through three albums and an EP to bring forth a set list of songs that weighs heavily on new album Blue Weekend, this is the previously postponed tour that is relieving the band’s own tension of not being able to play them.
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With the 02 Academy in Birmingham being the final date on the Blue Weekend tour, the band aim to have their last hurrah. Arriving on stage,they erupt into single ‘Smile’ and the crowd reacts immediately. Bassist Theo Ellis proclaims, “Birmingham, you’ve always been good to us!” To which the crowd repays in kind by dancing and singing along to the first album track, ‘You’re A Germ’, its counting pre-chorus perfectly suited to getting the crowd going.
A couple of songs later, Wolf Alice head back to their latest release with the song ‘Delicious Things’, and this is when the whole crowd woke up. Fans new and old singing along to every single word of the song, generating a new gig memory in real time as thousands sung “Would you believe I’m in Los Angeles…”. Not wanting to get the audience contemplative for too long, ‘Planet Hunter’ from second album Visions of a Life got them going again. There wass one gig-goer who shouted quite loudly “THIS IS MY FAVOURITE SONG” as it was announced. Then came ‘Bros’ , a song that was found on debut album My Love Is Cool, and on EPs before the album. Always a fan favourite, this was another one that got the crowd enthused.
The next section saw quite a few songs from Blue Weekend, from ‘Safe From Heartbreak’ to ‘Play The Greatest Hits’. Here Wolf Alice re-affirmed their mastery as manipulators of genre, with singer/guitarist Ellie Rowsell crafting the ability to shape-shift in front of an audience to fit the mood of the song, from soft quiet ballads to riot grrl mania in the space of minutes. The crowd lapped it up. As the set began to reach its final third, the longer build-up heavy songs kicked in. Eight minute ‘Vision of a Life’ carried across a multiple-part song of solos, and heavy releases of the aforementioned tension they’re so great at generating. It led to one of their earliest bangers in ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’: a song so good it makes the mosh-pit at the front of the stage twice as powerful.
After another Blue Weekend song of ‘No Hard Feelings’, the main set ended with the intro-to-end-all-intros in ‘Giant Peach’, with the long build-up providing a good choice for the finale. All four members of the band put in their all, as the crowd screamed along with Rowsell. For the encore, the band came back out to give their thanks to a whole list of people that had accompanied them on the tour. They then launched into single ‘Last Man on The Earth’.
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There’s a moment in the song where the guitar kicks in after several minutes of build-up. This could either be the mix itself or the way that the 02 Academy is laid out, but when that guitar solo kicked in it felt so buried in the mix. What should be centre stage didn’t create the “moment” that it should have created. Which was an absolute shame, and one of the very few moments where the resolution didn’t match the tension.
Ending with ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’, Wolf Alice completed a tour that finally saw them play Blue Weekend. Always accomplished, stuck at the top of their game with no sign of coming down at any time soon, they’re still one of the most interesting and exciting rock bands in the UK, and long may they reign.