Live Review: Wolf Alice // Westgarth Social Club, Middlesbrough – 17.08.2017

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Wolf Alice hit the alternative grunge scene like a slap in the face. Their earlier EPs leaning towards folk-tinged pop, the North London quartet released their debut ‘My Love Is Cool’ back in 2015, one of the United Kingdom’s most anticipated home-grown albums. Two years on and a dedicated fan base behind them, Visions of a Life is due out at the end of next month.

Opener ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’ floats an ethereal shimmer, a million miles away from punk and dingy grunge – more This Mortal Coil than Minor Twin. Through the touching pop-swirl of fan favourite ‘Bros’, there’s echoes of The Cranberries and The xx as the audience hurl into an unexpected but calm frenzy, with clapping almost overpowering Theo Ellis’ bass.

Bridging the gap between dainty folk-pop and splattering indie-rock up the walls, the confidence and passion illustrated through the band prove that they have already got their plan worked out and there is no doubt it will veer away from the strange and feral path they are walking.

Minutes later, the Londoners resemble a completely different band. New single ‘Yuk Foo’ is a ball-busting slice of punk fury, erupting the crowd into a riot-grrl blast of expletive-laden grunge rock while contrasting pop-funk track ‘Beautifully Unconventional’ takes in psychedelia and effects pedal guitar rhythms.

The feeling of adoration is obvious as soon as the strobe lights and screaming commence as hordes of glitter-faced fans urge their way forward to the quiet-loud dynamic of ‘Your Loves Whore’. A fuse of modern trends and mid-90s grunge seems to have an enveloping effect across the venue, breathing new life and injecting a bit of imagination into a perhaps repetitive alternative rock genre, with the intimate 200 or so crowd singing back every word. Having taken their name from a short story by Angela Carter, Rowsell’s vocal style parallels with the feral girl raised by wolves that is featured within the gothic tale as her petulant howl encompasses the audience from the front to the back of the dark and soiled venue.

Almost acting as a shape-shifter, closing track ‘Giant Peach’ sees Rowsell resemble a more eerie Lana Del Rey before transforming into a tantrum-throwing punk and leaving the roof of the venue dislodged as the crowd disperse outside amongst plastic cups and homemade CDs scrawled with ‘Ellie’ that didn’t make it to the stage.

In the dingy, sweaty venue they came up in, the alt-rock outfit still know how to possess a crowd. Going back to these venues is a nice acknowledgement to the fans they deem so important, recalling venues where they sharpened their style and honed their craft.

This is how comebacks should be made. It leaves a strange feeling, almost like they’re not performing music – they’re re-inventing it.

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