Having arrived at the Barra’s with almost no knowledge of Wolf Alice’s discography aside from a crash-course playlist my girlfriend had made for me, I had very little preconceptions of the band from the get-go. While I hadn’t made any effort to blend in amongst the Wolf Alice die-hards, I didn’t feel like I stuck out like a sore thumb. The crowd was filled with fans of all ages and afflictions, making it all the less cliquey and, thankfully, all the more enjoyable when the band took to the stage.
The band opened with ‘Smile’ from their 2021 album, Blue Weekend. While I had only heard this song once or twice before, singer Ellie Rowsell’s stage presence had me watching the band’s performance closely. Highlights from the beginning of their setlist include ‘Formidable Cool’ and ‘Planet Hunter’, both of which I had no hope of singing along to yet left me wanting to return to their recorded material the next day. Bass player Theo Ellis quickly had the crowd enamoured with his eccentric performance: facial expressions I can only imagine come from a deep-rooted love for playing and performing.
One real highlight of the show was the lighting – a row of spotlights lined the front of the stage, illuminating each of the musicians. It felt as though the set had been carefully tailored to allow the crowd to lose themselves in each band member. As a new Wolf Alice fan, this was much appreciated, and it let me take in the performance as a whole. One song I was surprised to hear near the end of their set was ‘Moaning Lisa Smile,’ an early track from their 2014 Creature Songs EP that’s become a rarity in their live sets. I felt the surprise from the crowd when those grungy opening chords filled the ballroom. Re-emerging for their encore, a white spotlight lit up Rowsell as the opening notes of ‘The Last Man on Earth’ began to reverberate around the Barras. Lighters and phone torches lit up the crowd as Rowsell sat near the edge of the stage, making what usually feels like a massive venue very intimate.
While I would’ve perhaps appreciated more involvement from the crowd in terms of energy, the show itself was a real eye-opener for me: the live show took their already complex and hard-hitting recordings to another level of intimacy, performance, and formidable coolness.
[Lloyd Ledingham – he/they – @lloydshouse]
[Photo credits: Rosie Sco – she/her – @rosie.sco]