Headlining a festival on your first album is no small feat, so it feels fitting that Wolf Alice should bring the tour for their debut ‘My Love Is Cool‘ to a close with their very first bill-topping performance at By The Sea. Outside the doors of the large shed where the group are playing, the dodgems, ghost train and other rides of Margate theme park Dreamland are shutting down for the night, leaving nothing to distract from the music and the crowd free to celebrate all the band have achieved in the year and a quarter since the record’s release.
Nothing could distract your attention from Wolf Alice and their incredible rise, though. Tonight, they’re not flawless – there’s little missed cues and wrong notes here and there in the set – but where their usual finesse is slightly battered, their pure passion and enthusiasm is untarnished and as utterly compelling as ever. Joff Oddie, always a guitar hero, steps things up even further tonight, launching his guitar high into the air during the sugar-coated noise-pop of ‘Lisbon’, catches it then spirals around the left of stage shredding barbed notes out of it. After ‘Swallowtail’, drummer Joel Amey’s swooning moment on the mic, bassist Theo Ellis – shirtless, save for a high vis vest – jumps off stage and runs up to the barrier, gesturing to the crowd to get going.
With the likes of the monstrous ‘You’re A Germ’, lilting ‘Bros’ and electric ‘Storms’ in their arsenal, it’s practically impossible not to completely lose yourself to your inner thrasher. Through countless gigs and relentless touring around the world, Wolf Alice have learned how to craft the perfect setlist – one that’s full of opportunities to grab your mates and mosh and get a bit emotional. The former songs (‘She’, ‘Moaning Lisa’s Smile’, ‘Fluffy’) are searing adrenaline rushes, the latter (‘Silk’, ’90 Mile Beach’, ‘Blush’) like someone stroking your hair when you’re feeling a bit fragile. It’s a set that builds and builds, even through its softer moments, euphoria and emotion growing in tandem and leaves the audience, who start off placid, a chaotic mess.
“I’m a bit nervous, we haven’t got any confetti or anything like that,” Theo tells NME earlier in the day. Wolf Alice are a band that don’t need to rely on flashy extras, gimmicks or stage production, though. All they need to do to conquer any stage is show up, plug in and play. They’ve proved it time and again over the last couple of years and, tonight, they prove it once more. As ‘Giant Peach’ reaches its buoyant, sludgy climax, front woman Ellie Rowsell launches herself into the crowd and, as anxious security guards watch on, is carried above everyone’s heads right to the back of the room. It perfectly encapsulates their performance – riding high on an endless, triumphant wave. When they return with album two, expect that feeling to get even more ferocious.