Wolf Alice, Victoria Warehouse, Manchester
18th December 2018
Christmas came a week early in Victoria Warehouse this evening. Every single person – be it whole Liverpudlian families, old Scottish punks, excited Mancunian teens, the lot – shakes off their winter blues as soon as they step foot in the venue. They all know it’s going to be a very special night; it is, after all, the last time London’s Wolf Alice will grace the north for a while.
With Christmas trees at either side of the stage it feels especially festive in the vast converted warehouse by the time Vinyl Staircase begin warming up the crowd with their sixties-tinged psychedelic rock. Brooklyn’s Surfbort follow them up, their wild, tongue-in-cheek punk probably dividing the opinions of the audience somewhat. The band’s I-don’t-give-a-f*** attitude is endearing and entertaining, Miller at one point diving into the crowd whilst the lead guitarist headbangs with a manic grin on his face.
You know when the main act comes on stage and the younger half of the audience surge forward instantly into the pits, whilst the older folk hang back a bit? That doesn’t happen when Wolf Alice open the show with Yuk Foo. Instead, every single person in the crowd dives forward before collapsing back against themselves in one of the most inclusive, gigantic pits Victoria Warehouse has ever seen. Ellie Rowsell, as powerful a frontwoman as always, spits ‘you bore me to death! Now I don’t give a s***!’ at her fans, who scream it right back with the same ferocity – ironic, as clearly both parties are far from bored to death. This is instantly followed up with the band’s iconic You’re A Germ, and the crowd aren’t given a chance to rest. Within just the first two songs of the set, Wolf Alice have proven they deserve their place at the forefront of the UK’s punk scene.
The band are known for their ability to shift from high-intensity punk numbers to soft, melody-driven, dreamy rock in an instant. After The Zero Hour, Planet Hunter and Don’t Delete The Kisses are delivered one after the other and there isn’t a dry face in the venue – a middle aged man says through tears after the gorgeous DDTK that ‘never in (his) 25 years of marriage has a song ever come so close to describing how (he) feels about (his) wife’, and if that doesn’t sum up the joy and love this band produces amongst its fans, then what will?
The soft section doesn’t last long, though, before pits open up again with rapturous grins of glee during Formidable Cool and Storms. Rowsell oozes with, well, formidable cool during the former track – for such a humble woman, she knows how to utterly command a stage, gradually getting more frantic as the song reaches a fever pitch and she screams ‘that’s all he f***ing did when he f***ed you on the floor!’. The highlight of the set is Visions Of A Life, a sprawling eight minute rock opera-esque track that sees the audience signing along with all their might. Wolf Alice close the set with three of their most well-loved songs – Fluffy, Moaning Lisa Smile, and Giant Peach see people literally doing cartwheels and backflips in the middle of the pits before everyone crashes together, bodies propelled by sheer love for the London rockers, the frontwoman herself climbing over the audience during MLS.
Rowsell and co. created something magical in Manchester tonight. Their songwriting skill is matched by their impressive, dramatic stage presence and ability to work a crowd – Wolf Alice truly are the full package, and utterly deserving of the frenzied dedication they inspire in their fans, who undoubtedly will eagerly anticipate their return to the city.