GIG REVIEW: Wolf Alice at O2 Academy Bournemouth
It's finally fucking happened. On Thursday (July 22nd), for the first time in 16 months, we were able to go to a non-socially distanced gig - and who better to see than Wolf Alice, fresh from receiving their third Mercury Prize shortlist nomination.
For most of the crowd in Bournemouth's 1800 capacity O2 Academy, this is their first major outing since restrictions have lifted, and you can feel it as the venue's thick atmosphere buzzes with almost two years of pent up gig energy. With indie-rock classics and karaoke hits from the likes of Kate Nash and Amy Winehouse playing through the PA as a substitute for a support act, the songs are welcomed with wide arms and belted singalongs.
With the crowd sweaty before their set has even begun, Wolf Alice approach the stage determined to keep that energy high as they kick things off with Blue Weekend single Smile, heavy basslines ripping through the crowd. Straight into early fan favourites (Bros, Beautifully Unconventional, Formidable Cool) sees full-throttle mosh pits and brutal guitar shredding - everyone is in their element. Despite having not played a full show like this since 2019, Wolf Alice show no signs of being out of practise at this Latitude Festival warm-up.
The reaction to tracks off Blue Weekend - just a month old at this point - is overwhelming warm. Even calmer tracks, like slow-burner How Can I Make It OK? and acoustic tear-jerker Safe From Heartbreak (If You Never Fall in Love) have the crowd throwing their hands up high and singing along harmoniously like these songs are Wolf Alice classics - and with a reaction like that, it's safe to say that they soon will be. Along with Planet Hunter, these songs are a well-deserved breather for the crowd as body-slamming is replaced with soft, synchronised arm-waving. Frontwoman Ellie Rowsell swaps out her guitar and banshee-like vocals to showcase her ethereal voice on these ballads.
And then, of course, we're right back to into those exhilarating rock tracks that Wolf Alice have built up a solid reputation for, with punchy Space & Time, extended with elements of The Velvet Underground's I'm Waiting For The Man, and punk hard-hitter Play The Greatest Hits receiving its live debut to non-stop surges of manic gig-goers crashing into each other.
While Ellie doesn't say much - and she doesn't have to, because her heart-warming grins speak for themselves - bassist Theo Ellis and guitarist Joff Oddie sling words of encouragement to the audience. Not that anyone needs to be told to go fucking wild, because they've already surpassed that.
But the band don't need to say much as they pummel through their early hits - spine-chilling Silk, sleazy, grungy Giant Peach, and anthemic Moaning Lisa Smile, with its magnetic chorus vibrating off the venue's grand baroque-style walls. Don't Delete The Kisses is truly transcendent, a moment of bodies on shoulders and hands in the air that transports you to another realm entirely, one where you forget that scenes like these have been stripped away for far too long.
Ending the set on Blue Weekend's dreamy era opener, the swelling piano ballad The Last Man on Earth, is a bold move, but Wolf Alice have never been ones to shy aware from boldness. As the show closes, it's undoubtedly emotional. But rather than feeling like the end of something, in many ways it feels like the beginning of a new era - one where gigs are back for fucking good.
How Can I Make It OK?
Safe From Heartbreak (If You Never Fall in Love)
Space & Time
Play the Greatest Hits
Don't Delete the Kisses
Lipstick on the Glass
Moaning Lisa Smile
Visions of a Life
The Last Man on Earth
Review by Chloe Robbins
Photography by Raph Pour-Hashemi