The north-London quartet overcame early technical difficulties to deliver a vibrant set channelling shoegaze, grunge and punk at Manchester’s intimate Gorilla club
GIGWISE
17:31 21st February 2018

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Wolf Alice’s reputation grew in venues like the 600-capacity Gorilla club they played in Manchester last night.

Since the success of their breakout My Love is Cool, the band have marked themselves out as one of the so-called saviours of guitar-music, not least because of their infectious, intelligent shoegaze and grunge-like leanings. Large-capacity venues and festivals inevitably followed: it’s certainly been a while since they’ve played such an intimate venue. Their latest album, Visions of a Life, was released in late 2017 and took things a step further for the band: adding punk and krautrock into the mix, everyone got excited about Wolf Alice all over again.

One of several bands playing a series of special BRIT’s week gigs in support of War Child, the gig opened with a talk from War Child’s Chief Executive, Rob Williams, and a young campaigner for the charity, Layla. Both talked emotively about the work of the charity and how the gigs are specifically helping to support refugees in Syria, having raised over £600,000 already.

The gig had an appropriately dreamy start after the sobering talk, with the Jesus and Mary Chain-like ‘Heavenward’ opening the set. The shoegazing quickly ended, however, making way for the excellent ‘Yuk Foo.’ Its angry punk driven melody sent the venue into a jumping frenzy, with lead singer and guitarist Ellie Rowsell seemingly channelling her Kim Gordon side. Roswell has clearly found a new artistic liberty in punk – her confidence soared on stage compared to her quieter persona of years ago.

The brilliantly frenetic ‘You’re a Germ’ followed, its Cramps-like stop-start melody anchored well by Joel Amey on drums. “Manchester, it’s such a pleasure to back here!” Rowsell shouted, before the gig was plunged into silence after a technical fault with Joff Oddie’s effects pedals. It was left to bassist Theo Ellis to momentarily entertain: “I have a lot of admiration for you going this feral on a Tuesday night,” he joked, until it became apparent this was a considerable fault and a lengthy repair was needed.

It’s not easy to emerge back on stage after an almost 20-minute absence, but Wolf Alice made it look easy and quickly resumed with aplomb, playing ‘Your Loves Whore.’ Oddie’s effects pedals now working, his Greenwood-like experimentation made his corner of the stage feel like a sound laboratory as he built layer upon layer of soaring psych-rock, similar to the hazy ‘St Purple’s & Green’ and ‘Sadboy’ which followed later.

Rowsell clung to a bunch of flowers handed to her by a fan which she waved around, Morrissey like, just as Ellis was busy stripping down to his vest as the tiny venue heated up – something assisted by the furious grunge-punk of ‘Space and Time’ and ‘Fluffy’. Early favourites ‘Blush’ and ‘Giant Peach’ proved popular audience favourites during the encore, as did ‘Formidable Cool’ with its pulp undertones and retro kitsch.

Wolf Alice’s enthusiasm, energy and charisma is intoxicating no matter what size of venue they play. Whilst their new venture into grunge and punk seemed to appeal most last night, their fearless ability to experiment across genres and styles still makes them a band to be excited about as their excellent comeback clearly continues.

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Words: Elizabeth Aubrey

Photos: Holly Marsden

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Photo: Holly Marsden