As far as I’m concerned, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs back catalogue playing as an opener to any gig is a sure fire sign that I am in the right place. Fever to Tell and It’s Blitz back to back, set the scene perfectly for the entrance of London grunge-pop-folk-rockers Wolf Alice, who take to the stage in Oran Mor, on the first night of their UK tour. Attracting a mixed crowd in Glasgow’s middle class West End, Oran Mor isn’t my favourite venue. A beautiful church with a converted basement is perfect in theory but alas, the floor just isn’t quite sticky enough for my liking.
The setting doesn’t matter. Ellie Rowsell, Joel Amey, Joff Oddie and Theo Ellis could be playing in a corner shop for all I, or anyone else, cares tonight. As the heavy intro of 2013 single ‘Fluffy’ kicks off the set, the top tier of the crowd descends into a chaotic mosh pit within the first three bars of the song. ‘Storms’ is next and like a passive aggressive lover, it is understated, chilled out hostility at its best. Mellow, reverberating vocals lull the crowd into a false sense of security before a cacophony of pounding guitars and base concludes the track on a high. The band packs the first half of the set with further favourites from their two superb EPs; 2013’s Blush and 2014’s Heavenly Creatures. Magnificent loud and quiet interplay throughout the riotous ‘She’ and the ascending soft sound of ’90 Mile Beach’, take the crowd on a journey of ups and downs, hard and soft moments as rife as each other.
Playing tune after tune, the set feels fairly established. With their recent ascension in popularity, it’s easy to forget that Wolf Alice have been around for a while; first formed in 2010, by singer (and guitarist) Rowsell and lead guitarist Oddie. When drummer Amey and bassist Ellis joined in 2012, their original folky-pop rock sound was injected with some heavy, grungy rebellion. Two EPs later, they have their first studio album, My Love Is Cool, coming out on June 22nd and the blossoming profile of these unassuming, slow burners is sure to rocket this year.
With two distinct styles, elements of old and new are evident throughout the set. Gritty rock interspersed with moments of blissful downtime, make the set all the more intense and captivating. Roswell is an awe inspiring front woman, and it’s hard to take your eyes off of her. Tonight, she is a glorious juxtaposition. Gentle and delicate in appearance, with her baby pink guitar, powder blue negligee, childlike pleat and fresh, flawless face, she commands the stage passionately and rocks out as hard as anyone. Roaring guitars, elements of bands as varied as Elastica, Warpaint, The XX, The Pixies and even Pearl Jam; Wolf Alice shift masterfully from grunge rock riffs and synchronised head banging, to delicate moments of ghostly sounding magic.
The first new material comes in the form of disdainfully named ‘You’re a Germ’. Bassist Ellis declares that ‘Glasgow is the fucking best place in the world’, to which Rowsell scolds, ‘Stop fucking swearing!’ They then transcend into the beautiful ‘Blush’, which they dedicate to the Glaswegians. Emotional, raw, heartfelt and probing lyrics ask the question ‘Are you happy, now?’ Rowsell’s ethereal tones make you question your whole existence and ask yourself a question that you wouldn’t normally confront honestly. (Well, are you?) This favourite track showcases her mesmerising voice in its purest form, and it’s nothing short of beautiful.
‘Giant Peach’, the belting first single from the new album is met by an appreciative crowd. Bass, guitar and vocals all move together onstage in perfect convulsing harmony. A Joy Division-esque intro paves the way for a dark, sleazy riff and the high-pitched, screams and yelps of Rowsell throughout are enough to make Karen O proud.
After leaving on the high of ‘Giant Peach’, the foursome take to the stage again, after little in the way of persuasion, to play penultimate track ‘White Leather’, the B side from first single ‘Fluffy’. Swaying in unison, the audience can’t get enough. Reminiscent of The XX, this chilled-out fuzzy indie pop seems to have attracted a weird crowd and there is a man next to me dancing in a slow motion, flailing like one of the big blow-up tube men you sometimes see outside car garages, arms everywhere. As the song ends, he turns and asks me what the crowd are chanting. “Erm, they’re saying ‘here we, here we, here we fucking go.’ Have you not heard that before?” He informs me that he hasn’t.
The grand finale comes in the form of the epic ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’. Rowsell offers her mic to the adoring crowd who join her in screaming “It’s Never Enough”. No real gig would ever be complete without a bit of crowd surfing and Ellis throws himself expertly into the heaving mass of bodies, soon to be dragged back over the barrier by an unimpressed member of security.
Wolf Alice make me want to be in a band. Ellie Rowsell is a beautiful breath of fresh air and when the spine-tingling ‘Bro’s is played and she asks the crystal clear question ‘are you wild like me?’, it leaves me aching to prove that I am. In her own mesmerising words, she leaves the crowd punch drunk, dumbstruck and happy happy.