Review: Wolf Alice at O2 Guildhall, Southampton

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This year has catapulted Wolf Alice to fame, with the release of their debut album My Love Is CoolIt’s taken them far away from their beginning five years ago, with frontwoman Ellie Rowsell and Joff Oddie making music at open mic nights, then producing EPs as the North London-based four piece formed. Such a hype surrounding a band can be worrying: it adds pressure, and gives them further to fall. But what Wolf Alice did with this show was live up to their name and more; the night brought an incredible light show, amazing vocals, and an all-round good sound.

Made Violent kicked off the evening for a short set, easing the audience in with a more chilled out sound than the bands that were to follow. As Drenge took to the stage and the evening progressed, more of a crowd trickled into the Guildhall – the space which both bands had expressed excitement to play. Being as hot and sticky as a festival tent, the venue was saved by its amazing sound quality, allowing the bands to engulf the audience with their music. The quiet and chilled out Rory Loveless, Drenge’s drummer, was utterly transformed from the chilled out guy I’d met earlier in the day. On stage, the energy between the two brothers was unsurpassable.

Their sound was full bodied, giving off a rockier edge than found in the “letdown pop” of their recorded music, which draws influences on The Cure and Queens of the Stone Age. ‘We Can Do What We Want’, from the band’s sophomore album Undertow, demonstrated a jauntier tone, with fast-paced lyrics. It might be the Northern accents, with the brothers hailing from Sheffield, but I couldn’t help but see shades of The Cribs and The Courteeners in some of the more lyric based elements of their set. Their versatility, slipping seamlessly between pretty heavy rock with clashing guitars and quick drum work, and the more sensitive tracks such as ‘Fuckabout’ needs to be credited. The brothers didn’t take a lot of time out of their set to interact with the audience, giving off a kind of “just getting on with it” vibe.

As promised, Wolf Alice worked their way through the entirety of My Love Is Cool and delivered a sparkling performance. Ellie’s vocals pierced through the darkness as the band opened with the eponymous track, softly accompanied by the rest of the band. She seemed more at home on stage than off, with a confident presence and faultless vocals. There was something of a Lana Del Rey tone to her voice, which I hadn’t noticed in the band’s recorded music. But Ellie’s is more powerful, with a fuller vocal range: impressively slipping between shouting ‘Fluffy’ at the top of her lungs to the moodily soft melodies of tracks like ‘Silk’. An apprehension with female fronted bands is that they will become a show just for the frontwoman, like Florence + The Machine have definitely fallen to, but the energy from every member of Wolf Alice meant that they played in unity. Ellie and Theo swaying in sync part of the way through showed great chemistry within the band, and they humbly thanked us all for being there midway through the set.

Their set was one of two halves, with the latter being full of the songs the band were most looking forward to play: ‘Fluffy’ and ‘Giant Peach’. Often pinned as a grunge band, the second half of the set definitely showcased the band’s rock influences, with shouting, head-banging, and insane energy. The encore opened with Ellie’s husky, ethereal vocals for the album’s opener ‘Turn To Dust’, with the set concluding with the crashing rock of ‘Giant Peach’.

The band’s light show was captivating throughout the hour and a half set. It ranged from soft strobes gliding through the smokey atmosphere, a glittering starry backdrop, warming reds and oranges for ‘Bros’, to their album cover lit up in sparkles behind them. The lights were timed to the music with precision, even the glitter moved along with Wolf Alice’s melodies. Musical highlights included ‘Freazy’, ‘Silk’ and the nostalgic ‘Bros’.

Something sadly lacking on the evening was atmosphere. Although the band’s presence on stage was incredible, there was something a bit flat about the audience, despite Theo’s attempts to raise spirits and get people jumping up and down. This might have something to do with the odd mix of ages at the show; turning to your right you might see an eight year-old dancing away, then to your left a swaying middle-aged person. Not that that’s a bad thing per-say, but it was just a bit unnerving at times.

Wolf Alice gave a stunning performance at the O2 Guildhall, delivering their debut album with precision and vigour – and they were definitely cool and glittery.

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Third year English student, Records Editor, list maker and lover of Kinder Buenos.

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