Wolf Alice – Brighton Dome – 20th November 2017

Wolf Alice – Brighton Dome
Photo by Jamie Macmillan

Aptly for a band who seem to have ‘Glastonbury headliner’ written all over them, there was a festival feel to tonight’s show with two support bands who are both on a rapid upwards trajectory of their own. First up were Superfood, who gave a bright performance but, unfortunately, at times seem to suffer from sound issues, with Carl Griffin’s drums drowning out the rest of the band. Dom Ganderton and Ryan Malcolm still had bags of energy about them though, and songs like their eponymous debut single still looks to contain all the right ingredients.

Following were Sunflower Bean, the three-piece from New York who are rapidly making a name for themselves. Led by twin vocalists Julia Cumming and Nick Kivlen, they floated between dreamy indie-pop and an exciting harder-edged rock vibe. There was obviously a lot of crossover in appeal with a packed Dome breaking into moshes throughout their short set, and it was an exciting taster for their headline show at Concorde 2 next year. Absolutely a band to catch right now, they ticked every box for a band that seem set to explode into 2018 as ones to watch.

Then onto the main act. It feels odd to describe a set that has the explosive ‘Yuk Foo’ as its second song as a slow-burner, but that was exactly how it felt in a packed Dome tonight. As the four members of Wolf Alice strode onto the stage, there was a fierce intensity lining their faces – an absolute commitment to the cause. That fire burnt coldly throughout, with a heaviness and ferocity to their sound that took the breath away by the end of the night. It was the sort of performance that leads to everyone having a different favourite moment, an exceptional showing by a band who seem to be at this point almost unstoppable.

Starting with the shoegaze sounds of ‘Heavenward’, a song that lived up to its title with Ellie Rowsell’s vocals soaring into the rafters rather than remaining amongst us mere mortals. From there, the attention only returned to the ground due to the tremors caused by the aforementioned ‘Yuk Foo’ and ‘You’re A Germ’. While Rowsell remained largely static at the mic in these opening moments, Joff Oddie (guitar) and Theo Ellis (bass) provided a whirling energy as they span and contorted around the stage. As moody as the stage lighting may have been, it was apparent that the band didn’t feel the same as they grinned to the audience in between tracks. The sheer power and energy emanating from the stage was fuelling circle pits without the aid of any particularly beefy riffs, as if the sheer heaviness of the sound itself was all that was needed.

Amongst all the dark wildness, there were moments of pure light and sweetness too. ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’, performed as bright blue sparkles bounced off a far-off mirrorball onto upturned audience faces, was stunning. As Rowsell sang of those nervy, unsure days of early love (“I’m typing you a message that I know I’ll never send/Rewriting old excuses, delete the kisses at the end”), the audience marked every single syllable with fingers pointed in the air and made an already tender song even more beautiful. At the opposite end of the spectrum, ‘Formidable Cool’ embraces the Riot Grrrl shades of old, savage beyond compare. Mostly seemingly oblivious to the madness that Ellis and Oddie were summoning up behind her, this track provoked a rage within Rowsell that surged to the surface at this point, making for a visceral and primal moment.

From there, the show stops merely simmering and boiled over. ‘Space & Time’ saw Oddie wielding his guitar like a cricket bat, banging speakers and amps to drag every last ounce of sonic magic from it – while old favourite ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’ saw Rowsell become a full-on rock goddess, guitar slung over her back as if she was the last outlaw in town while she screamed into the mic. By the time ‘Visions of a Life’ and ‘Fluffy’ have ended in a riotous finale, the audience had very little left to give but summoned up one last effort for a circle pit that seemed large enough to hold the majority of the crowd in it. What will ultimately be one more short step towards world domination for Wolf Alice, will undoubtedly pass into legend for all who witnessed a band at the height of their powers.

Jamie Macmillan

Website: wolfalice.co.uk
Facebook: facebook.com/wolfalicemusic
Twitter: twitter.com/wolfalicemusic