Narrowly missing out on a Number One record with their debut ‘My Love is Cool’, Wolf Alice take friends Drenge and US newcomers Made Violent on the road with them to celebrate a fantastic year for the band, culminating with a sold out date at Brixton Academy.
Made Violent, the latest young, snotty American band to try their luck on these shores, open proceedings tonight. Already hyped to high heaven, I’m going to heap a bit more praise on them. Sounding like all the best bits of your favourite bands (Think FIDLAR covering Nirvana) and with the dirty cool of first album era Kings of Leon, they deserved to be checked out. They probably won’t go further than an album, but sound like they’re having too much of a good time to care.
The basement of Newcastle Uni’s SU , all low ceilings and black sweaty walls is the perfect venue for Drenge. As main support, their shorter set allows a more streamlined sonic assault, and it works great for them. As noted by frontman Eoin Loveless, this is pretty wild stuff for a Monday night. ‘Bloodsports’, ‘Backwaters’ and a brutal ‘Nothing’ are all rattled off with Drenge’s terrifying raw power. A thunderous ‘Running Wild’ shakes the venue to its core and brings things to a close.
Much like how Suede would begin gigs with ‘The Next Life’, Wolf Alice start off the gig with the slow, slight ‘My Love Is Cool’. It’s a great trick that gets the audience onside, easing them in. It quickly becomes that the band use balance and restraint tonight fantastically. When they want to rock, they can hard, but the fragile vocals of lead singer Ellie Rowsell work best when her band and their songs glide and soar.
A song like ‘Your Loves Whore’ recalls Smashing Pumpkins at their most delicate and brilliant, while a tremendous ‘Bros’ sees guitarist Joff Oddie pull spiralling, dreamlike riffs from his Jaguar. The audience, everyone from the hardcore fans to impressed indie dads, lap it up, bouncing along and singing back every word.
Drummer Joel Amey gets a turn on vocals during the aching ‘Swallowtail’. Much of tonight is taken up with songs such as this, almost lullaby like in their nature. In the hands of other bands boredom would soon creep in. Wolf Alice have, perhaps due to Ellie’s enchanting vocals and presence, a completely spellbinding gift that sets them apart from other young bands and makes sure the audience stay entranced throughout. At one point, a couple of lighters are held aloft. When was the last time you seen that?
However, the best moments of the night come when Wolf Alice properly let themselves go. Their set is peppered with flashes of menace and rage which give Drenge a run for their money. ‘You’re a Germ’ sees Rowsell’s wide eyed whisper turn into a demented shriek, while bassist Theo Ellis can hardly contain himself during a colossal ‘Giant Peach.’ Ellis, with bleached hair, giddy smile and silver paint streaked on his cheeks could easily front his own band if he wanted. Providing most of the audience participation tonight, his steady stream of ‘NEWCASTLE!’ and ‘THANKS SO MUCH!’ outbursts illustrate the charm and passion that have carried the band to this point.
A sold-out Brixton Academy awaits Wolf Alice at the end of this tour, and it seems they can do no wrong. A truly special young band with serious amounts of passion, emotion and most importantly, great songs. Plus, they have a singing drummer, which is always a positive.