The milestone of playing London’s O2 Academy Brixton has been looming large on Wolf Alice’s horizon since it was announced in April. That most of the tickets were sold before their debut album ‘My Love Is Cool’ was released in June says a lot about the rate the London quartet are moving right now, but it also threw in a ton more pressure.
Some past London headline gigs have seen Wolf Alice flounder (malfunctioning instruments and a loss of composure turned a show at The Lexington in June 2013 into the kind of nightmare the band would like to erase from memory), but this is not one of those nights. Instead, it’s the most phenomenal show they’ve ever played – a giant celebration of the album, the last few months and Wolf Alice themselves.
The whole night feels like a massive event, from the hordes of fans filing in early to the handpicked supports. This is a band who understand how important being given the chance to open for someone on tour is – they’ve been there themselves with Swim Deep, Peace and The 1975 – and so they’ve invited Made Violent to do the honours on this run. The Buffalo, New York trio rise to the challenge impressively, looking completely at home as their dirty rock’n’roll riffs rumble around the cavernous Academy. It’s a brave decision to ask Drenge, arguably one of the best live bands in the country, to be main support and the Loveless brothers and bassist Rob Graham prove their merit with a bludgeoning performance.
When the black curtain hiding Wolf Alice’s instruments lifts, huge screams go up. From the second they step onstage, the feeling of adoration is overwhelmingly obvious: every song seems to provoke a room-enveloping reaction, be it circle pits (‘Giant Peach’) or arms swaying in slow-motion (drummer Joel Amey’s tender ‘Swallowtail’). There’s not a single dull moment, an impressive feat considering they’re playing ‘My Love Is Cool’ in full, right down to the hidden title-track and ethereal folky opener ‘Turn To Dust’, neither of which fit the up-and-at-‘em vibe of Wolf Alice’s earlier shows.
If this summer’s festivals showed how much confidence they’ve gained, tonight they seem to have quadrupled it. When singer Ellie Rowsell ditches her guitar for ‘Soapy Water’, she heads down to the front of the huge stage to meet her fans, moving with the elegance to match the song’s sombre melody. During closer ‘Giant Peach’, Ellie and bassist Theo Ellis stride confidently towards the barrier to show the crowd their synchronised sidestep dance routine in all its glory. Wolf Alice’s every scream and between-song comment is full of fun and pride: they’re acutely aware of how massive tonight is, but they’re taking it fully in their stride. Showers of gold ticker tape flutter across the venue as the last riffs of ‘Giant Peach’ ring out and the band gather together in a huddle, jumping on each other before leaping into the crowd. Tonight isn’t just any other gig, it’s the most glorious Wolf Alice have ever been. Even more exciting than that, it doesn’t even feel like they’re anywhere near their peak.