Review: Wolf Alice

wolf alice gig 2014

Credit: Paul Hudson

Eleanor Livingston
Writer

Crowd left enchanted at the Barrowland Ballroom

Wolf Alice – current darlings of the UK guitar-band scene – took to the Barrowland Ballroom on Sunday night in the second of a two-night stint. With bassist Theo Wallis announcing mid-gig that playing at the iconic Glasgow venue is a dream come true, it’s safe to say that the expectations were high from both band and crowd alike.

The band open with the first two tracks from their newest album, Visions of a Life, which was released in September. The album has received glowing critical acclaim, with a stack of four and five star reviews to its name and NME going as far as calling it album of the year and Wolf Alice “100 percent” the best band in Britain. That the band draws an audience from across the generic spectrum of music fans is a credit to their ability to transcend the rock genre, however this may explain the slight lack of atmosphere in the crowd at the get-go. There is a real speed to the show, with short songs and no pauses meaning that some of the band’s best loved tracks, including the Trainspotting 2 featured Silk are over before the crowd is really warmed up.

That said, the real star of the show is vocalist and guitarist Ellie Rowsell. Switching with ease between roaring punk vocals on songs like Yuk Foo, to sweet melancholic melodies on songs like St Purple and Green and the whispering intimacy of the monologue on album stand-out Don’t Delete the Kisses, Rowsell truly is a frontwoman in control. Her ethereal calm on stage somehow only manages to heighten the soaring energy of the set and her flawless vocals drive each track no matter the style. In fact the whole band more than do justice to their recorded work in their live performance; it’s hard to tell the difference between the live and studio versions of each track, which is a testament to the band’s technical talent as much as it is a testament to their ability to capture their youthful dynamism on their records.

By the time we hit the opening riff of first album favourite Lisbon the crowd are right there with the band, ready and willing to sweat through the remainder of the set. The pace doesn’t let up and the set list is essentially a checklist of their biggest hits to date; highlights include the poppy, instant crowd favourite Beautifully Unconventional and Bros, a dreamy track which the band have called “a simple ode to childhood friendship and imagination”. The encore sees the quartet return to the usual relentless chants of the crowd, in which they bask before playing Blush, sending their fans into awed silence with the stark, serene guitar and vocal intro. They end by letting loose on Giant Peach which offers arguably the band’s most infectious riff to date.

In a rare pause between songs Rowsell confesses that Scotland might just be the band’s favourite place to play. In true Barrowland style, it seems the high expectations for the night were met at both ends.