Wolf Alice

support WY
author LL date 19/01/18 venue Lille Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

The last time we had the pleasure of a show with this British alternative rock group around these parts was 1½ years ago at this same exact venue. This time, though, they have a sophomore album in the bag - the great "Visions of a Life" - and the place sold out a couple of weeks back as a testament to their rising popularity even in little Denmark. Vega is buzzing with activity already when we turn up for the supporting duo but a crowded show like this on a Friday night also apparently means that the amount of talk among the audience is consistently the loudest I've experienced at shows in a while. For Wolf Alice's loud rock genre blend, this is not a problem but for the softer support act, it definitely turns out as a factor to contend with.

All pictures by Michael Hyldgaard Løgtholt

WY

WY is a shoegaze/dream pop duo from Sweden that I have not heard of before tonight's booking. Their blanketing soundscapes and introspective lyrics have similarities with the evening's headliner while they can still stand out as something completely different. Their vocalist says from the stage that it's their first show in Denmark and they certainly get great exposure tonight as the venue is already filling up a lot when they take to the stage. The guitarist stays visually in the background and is out of the spotlight consistently while his riffs and walls of sound play a big role in filling out their songs. Thus, their vocalist is the center of attention as she not only sings but also starts beats and looping effects, plays a small keyboard, and occasionally dons an extra guitar. The music is very quiet at times and has some very sad and even a little naive lyrics presented in a slightly trembling but also somewhat deep voice that keeps them grounded. The collected result is a dreamy expression of vulnerability that sadly feels violated when the back half of the venue is constantly abuzz during a song like "Gone Wild". This is a shame because WY actually manage to build up a certain atmosphere through their set that culminates for me in "Hate To Fall Asleep" that has a strong impact with its heavy layers and short acapella break. In the front half of the room, despite the rest of it, people slowly begin to sway to the music as we soak in its melancholic atmospheres. The finishing song, "Nobody Else" picks up the pace and seems to please the party-ready audience with its more assertive lyrics and upbeat tempo, and altogether WY make a positive impression although it is hard for them to quite control the room in this setting.

Wolf Alice

With their sophomore album "Visions of a Life", Wolf Alice have branched out their already mixed approach to rock music to include not just grunge, punk, indie, and shoegaze but also a decidedly psychedelic kind of sound. It's intriguing how well they manage to integrate all these elements and influences without making it sound eclectic, probably especially because of their insanely good sense of melodies and catchy riffs that bind it all together. It's always exciting, then, to see how they're going to utilize this for the good of a set dynamic and as it turns out, their approach is to go all out from the very beginning just like the last time they were here. After they open up the room with the expansive "Heavenward", we are thus treated to a strike of punk-like energetic attitude when "Yuk Foo", "You're A Germ", and the more mellow but still really loud "Your Loves Whore" follow each other rapidly. They fulfill their purpose and get the crowd going quickly, leaving no doubt in anyone's mind that this show is going to kick ass.

The group's vocalist, Ellie Rowsell, is the natural center of attention but it's when the group's guitarist and bassist also step up to yell or shake their instruments at us that the room really boils tonight. Their songs might sometimes sound more dreamy and even quiet on record but live, it's all about guitar energy and attitude. As usual, the on-point Rowsell has two microphones for different effects, which work perfectly to ensure a dynamic vocal style in conjunction with her very expressive, almost theatrical approach to performing her equal parts defiant and softly introspective lyrics. Songs like "You're A Germ", "Giant Peach", the EP gem "Moaning Lisa Smile", and not least my current personal favorite, the psyched-out semi-spoken-word song, "Formidable Cool" power right through us like that while the older songs "Bros", "Silk", "Lisbon", and "Blush" especially stand out showcasing her softer side while the distorted guitar layers give the songs their special character.

There's not really anything negative to say about the way the band almost attacks their own material live, then, but all the more annoying is it that at the same time, they're so businesslike about it. No matter how expressive Rowsell has just been during a song, her face locks up again after and the crowd is only addressed twice during the show with an overly enthusiastic smile that is otherwise completely packed away. They continually present quality songs to us, though, and as long as they seem to give their all in the actual music while also touring as hard as they have for the past years, it's easy to forgive them this lack of personal involvement in between songs. The upside is that the set is crammed with as many tunes as possible and only two songs from the new album are not on the setlist. Towards the end of the show, the 8 minutes long "Visions Of A Life" gets to shine just as I had hoped it would, and as it gets us all grooving with its grinding and heavily building tempo, it really underlines the awe-inspiring fact that this band just keeps striking gold with their songwriting even at this relatively young age. The evening is capped off with the soft "Blush" and then the energetic "Giant Peach" that sends us off into the night, revitalized in body and soul after having been shaken through and through by an intense 1½ hours of quality material and a tightly controlled and yet devil-may-care performance.

Setlist:

  • 1. Heavenward
  • 2. Yuk Foo
  • 3. You're A Germ
  • 4. Your Loves Whore
  • 5. St. Purple & Green
  • 6. Don't Delete The Kisses
  • 7. Planet Hunter
  • 8. Bros
  • 9. Silk
  • 10. Lisbon
  • 11. Beautifully Unconventional
  • 12. Formidable Cool
  • 13. Sadboy
  • 14. Space & Time
  • 15. Moaning Lisa Smile
  • 16. Visions Of A Life
  • 17. Fluffy

- Encore

  • 18. Blush
  • 19. Giant Peach

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