Smack dab in the middle of their mammoth spring tour, London’s Wolf Alice are in town to showcase their Mercury Prize-shortlisted debut ‘My Love is Cool’ to yet another big room of devotees. The support they have in tow is mightily impressive too, with Swim Deep undergoing a transformation from swooning indie kids to “baggydelia”-toting oddballs on the harsh-lit stage in front.
“Wazzup?” blurts their keys maestro (and birthday boy) James Balmont, as the rest of the Birmingham band stride into view. Delivered with Bud ad-aping tongue and head shake, his introductory nod to late 90s pop culture is a rare moment of throwback during a set that’s bulging with futuristic psych hooks from their feverishly-lauded sophomore album ‘Mothers’. Opener ‘Forever Spacemen’ flirts with Flaming Lips circa ‘Yoshimi…’ and ‘To My Brother’ gives a modern spin on the sound of maraca-waggling Madchester, while at all times frontman Austin Williams moves erratically to the infectious motorik beats like Men In Black baddie Edgar the Bug. It’s a captivating watch throughout, but the falsetto-laden and fidgety finale ‘Fueiho Boogie’ is the favourite, finishing with a flourish of dizzying synth work.
The tension builds in a midnight blue hue before Wolf Alice arrive, with smoke creeping in the air like slow sea mist. But with the room suddenly plunged into darkness, the band instantly beckon the Dome‘s sway with a thunderous ‘Your Loves Whore’, which combines clanging guitars with wild white strobes. But beyond the opening strains of epic arena rock, they prove themselves to be incredibly versatile; ‘Freazy’ floats and grooves like Haim, ‘Fluffy’ fuses feral shrieks with siren-like licks and ‘Turn to Dust’ is quietly hypnotic.
In a similar vein, the night’s crowning point ‘Blush’ sets the heart aquiver with the sort of chiming fretwork that belongs to stelliferous nights. At its core, singer Ellie Rowsell’s vulnerable whisper brings the cavernous space to pin-drop silence, as a single ray illuminates her alone. It’s a moment. And there’ll be many. Because the Camden quartet sound like a group of friends trawling through a dusty, attic-found box of cassingles and reimagining their favourites with wide-eyed exuberance.
Real, eclectic and unpretentious; Wolf Alice are infectious, indeed.