If Good Friday’s anything to go by, this surely has to be the best yet for Wolf Alice. Playing to a sold out Shepherd’s Bush Empire crowd, which bassist Theo Ellis jokes is “the biggest headline show ever in the history of bands”, the North London quartet are about to tear up everything they’ve done before.
Reminiscing on previous shows, Theo chuckles: “Oh man we must’ve been shit!”. One of those was supporting Peace at the cramped venue, Birthdays, on the other side of London. Tonight though, Peace frontman Harrison Koisser lingers in the crowd. Not far from him is Huw Stephens, who’s long-running support for the band gave them their big festival break on Latitude’s Lake Stage.
It was around this time in 2013 that the band had just released their first couple of singles, ‘Fluffy’ and ‘Bros’. Both feature on their debut album, ‘My Love Is Cool’, as re-recordings that Theo says are “still recognisable. They’ve not turned into dubstep”. Those tracks along with ‘Giant Peach’, make up an album that is relatively unheard of. It’s something the band say they took into consideration which is refreshing compared to the frantic rush from a lot of bands to pre-release half a dozen singles.
Another thing they’ve taken their time to nurture is their stage presence. They step out tonight to a visual battering of strobes. The recognisable openers, ‘Fluffy’ and ‘She’, have ballooned in size amongst more sobering tracks from the album that are less striking but carefully crafted creatures.
When it comes to these newer tracks there’s a fine line between serious vocals in ‘Soapy Water’ and having a laugh through the most basic of dance routines in ‘Giant Peach’, which by the way, is an understatement for it’s colossal sound. Their sense of humour comes across none more so than in their music videos. “We’ve done those fucking stupid videos because, I can imagine a serious one can be quite self-conscious and a bit embarrassing. So we try to make it fun for ourselves but maybe those days are coming to an end” says softly-spoken lead, Ellie Rowsell. From dressing as girls to Robin Hood characters, “we relish it”, adds Theo. “It was a more enjoyable experience dressing up as Robin Hood rather than a woman ‘cos my feet bled. I was such a horribly ugly woman. Joel looked quite good, Joff looked like Florence Welch.” Presumably the fans agree, as Joff gets a bra lobbed at him three songs into tonight.
In terms of the album, Ellie says they took its production more seriously but admits that some things are just made to have fun to. “Yeah, Moaning Lisa Smile’s not supposed to be a fucking comedy song, we’re not the fucking Darkness yet” laughs Theo. High in spirits then, despite the lack of sleep and a recent return from America, Theo looks past this tour and to Reading and Leeds Festival which he describes as something he used to religiously go to. “I was very very very nervous before we came on so I’m looking forward to going back.”
What a difference a year makes. Tonight there’s no sign of jittery nerves and their setlist is snarling and spitting with glitter and gale force guitars. It’s the up-tempo older tracks like ‘Storms’, which turn the crowd into a frenzy and there’s room for a soaring ‘Blush’ which screams nostalgia. Swept aback, Ellie’s excitement gets the better of her as she returns to the stage guitar-less. Final song ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’ is a whirl-wind of emotion for those who have seen the band rise to a formidable force. Ellie clutches the mic, possessed and screaming into the front rows’ faces which she says she’s now able to do after “breaking down the wall” between them and their fans.
It’s a celebration of the past two years for a band who are still only on the brink of a debut album, yet they’ve offered so much up to now. Theo throws himself into the swarm as confetti cannons fire in a rockier, much more ballsier Coldplay fashion. Nothing can tame this beast, and these are only its first footsteps.