After virus related delay and rescheduling Wolf Alice's 'Blue Weekend' tour finally arrived back in their home city for a third sold out show at Hammersmith Apollo as part of a sold out UK tour.
'Blue Weekend' was released last June and marked a further ballooning in Wolf Alice's popularity and critical acclaim; the album was their first UK #1 and appeared in many end of year best of listings, they headlined Latitude festival and were recently awarded Best Group at the 2022 BRIT awards.
Theo Ellis' rumbling bass starts the show with the punky-pop 'Smile', a wall of white spotlights and strobe lighting erupting from the stage. The musical theme continues into 'You're A Germ' Joel Amey's pounding drums driving the song and the stage to ceiling LED strip lights flashing red/ pink/ white in time to Joel and touring keyboard player Ryan Malcolm's “wo wo, wo wo, wo wo, wo wo” backing vocals.
Theo acts as crowd rouser throughout the show“... We didn't think this was going to happen for a long time so thank you all for coming out of the house. Let's have it on a Sunday shall we?” ; raising his arms up encouraging the audience, leaping on and off his stage monitor like an adrenaline-fuelled jack-in-the box. “Everybody needs to sing along to this one, including everyone on the balcony” he requests during the introduction to 'Delicious Things' (the track describes doubts about the trappings of fame and is one of the highlights on 'Blue Weekend' ) the audience responds with a mass co-ordinated arm-waving and singing to the gorgeous melody in the chorus “ Oh, I won't say no, I'll give it a / Shot for the spot at the top, a girl like me/ Would you believe I'm in Los Angeles?”
The mass signing continues without further prompting throughout the show. Yellow lights flood the stage during the Fleetwood Mac style 'How I Can I Make It OK ?' the title is sang as the call and response to lead singer/ guitarist Ellie Rowsell's vocal lines. Early single about friendship 'Bros' is loudly sung and continues to be heard from at least two groups during after show drinks in the local 'spoons. 'Safe From Heartbreak (If You Never Fall In Love)' is a lovely, tender moment; guitarist Joff Oddie seated on the drum riser playing acoustic guitar and Ellie silhouetted in profile onto the backdrop, the line “You fucked with my feelings” left for the audience to shout enthusiastically.
Sirens signal a change of mood and tempo for the metal-pop of 'Play The Greatest Hits', bright green searchlights scatter across the stage and Ellie is on her knees screaming “It isn't loud enough.” The title track from their Mercury music prize winner 'Visions of a Life' feels that it was created to he heard in vast spaces like the Hammersmith Apollo. It becomes even more epic in the live format as it's given the space to breathe through its various changes of tempo and mood; clever lighting throws giant silhouettes of the band onto the backdrop during the fast instrumental passages before the song reaches its climatic end passage “ I heard that journeys ending with lovers meeting ,but my journey ends when my heart stops beating. I'm leaving.”
There's a welcome airing of 'Moaning Lisa Smile' from their first E.P 'Creature Songs' and the main set finishes with live favourite 'Giant Peach', the spotlights alternately picking out Joff and Ellie as they trade guitar parts during the opening passage before the big chords kick in and there's a huge crowd surge in the standing area. From the balcony view it appears that Ellie loses the lyrics during the first verse, but thanks to further evidence recorded closer to the front (the wonders of modern technology) it emerges that off-mic she is checking that someone at the front is OK in the accompanying chaos. 'Giant Peach' finishes with waling feedback from Joff's guitar and the band leave the stage for the first time.
The encore starts with the ballad 'The Last Man on Earth' from 'Blue Weekend', which really highlights the strength of Ellie's voice, as she sings the line “You'd like his light to shine on you” totally unprompted about 5,000 mobile phone torches are turned and waved in time to the sweeping ballad lighting the entire hall the which provides a unforgettable spectacle. As the song ends Ellie, sounds totally overcome by the emotions of evening “I can't believe it, what a great weekend. I love you all so much. Thank you.” By the final track 'Don't Delete the Kisses' the whole auditorium is on their feet, singing and dancing along with the song.
This truly wonderful show tonight feels like another leap forward in Wolf Alice's ever rising musical career, the ability of their songs to connect and resonate with large audiences is very clear and probably indicates that regular festival headlining shows and arena tours are not far away. In 2022 Wolf Alice definitely are one of Britain's best bands.