WOLF ALICE | THE TIVOLI, BRISBANE
SUNDAY, MAY 1 2022
The feeling of celebration is palpable tonight. Not only has it been a long and arduous journey from June 4, 2021 to now, but it is also the final show of Wolf Alice's Blue Weekend world tour, which included Groovin The Moo sets as well as a clutch of headline shows in Australia. The aforementioned date is, of course, when the band's exceptional third album was released, amidst lockdown and a world in turmoil, but tonight shows no signs of any trouble as the band positively launch themselves onto stage, seemingly wanting to be there even more than we want them there, if that's at all possible.
The stage is hardly visible and encompassed in a blue fog, a fitting setting as larger than life bassist Theo Ellis emerges first, arms stretched enthusiastically for the Tivoli roof before playing the opening bars of one of Blue Weekend's biggest songs, 'Smile'. It's a confident beginning to a beguiling show and time quickly dissipates from here, the captivation is high and the foursome have assembled one hell of a show. 'You're A Germ' and 'Formidable Cool' quickly follow, quickly setting the intention for the setlist - both tunes lure the entire audience into the palm of Ellie Roswell's hand, sometimes louder than the band themselves during moments like the former's "eyes wide / eyes wide / eyes wide" chant (do we even know what this means yet?)
The set is, in fact, expertly assembled, largely revolving around Blue Weekend (everything from the album is performed except the opening 'The Beach' and the closing 'The Beach II'), but with enough sprinkles of their 2015 debut My Love Is Cool and the 2017 Mercury-winning Visions Of A Life throughout to satiate even the deepest of fans. "Expertly" because they include short 1-2 or 1-2-3-4 song runs that reflect Blue Weekend's flawless sequencing, meaning album highlights 'Delicious Things' and 'Lipstick On The Glass' appear one after another, as do 'Safe From Heartbreak (If You Never Fall In Love)', 'How Can I Make It OK?', 'Play The Greatest Hits' and 'Feeling Myself'. At this point, it could be perceived as a flex and it's difficult to avoid reflecting on the journey we, the listeners, have had with Blue Weekend in almost 12 months - these songs are now firmly lodged down in the sub-cockle area of our hearts and are sentimental, arguably just as much as the ones from previous albums. This writer has dragged along a Wolf Alice novice tonight and, listening through somewhat ignorant ears, they are as easy to digest for a deep music fan as much as a casual listener.
As one friend stated in a text after the show, "They're incredible. They literally don't have a bad song - such a sum of all parts as well, I never know where to look - they're all so individually captivating." This accurate sentiment not only sums up the show, but also the band as a whole. Each member is as vital as the other, a fact demonstrated recently when guitarist Joff Oddie went missing for the American leg of the tour. Cries of "Where's Joff?" replaced the usual comments of love and praise from fans on the band's social media. Thankfully, he's fine, and tonight he's well and truly back -- one moment with guitar hero bombast, the next adding beautifully-subtle flourishes to Roswell's lead -- constantly encouraging the audience to engage, sing along and make a lot of noise. There's actually not a lot of distance between the performers and the audience as Oddie and Ellis are so inclusive and eliminate a lot of the boundaries.
But it needs to be said (yet again), Ellie Roswell is a bloody revelation. As a front person, she presents as almost shy, not really addressing the audience until the end of the set, yet simultaneously emanating a remarkable cool, calm and collected demeanour which actually seems to be more of a hard focus on her art. Her voice - already of a superior calibre - is remarkable and she doesn't miss a note. Drummer Joel Amey and the all-singing, all-keys playing touring member Ryan Malcolm support her with the lion's share of the backing vocals, complimenting Roswell with perfect harmonies. She has mastered all the moods and can seemingly be everything to everybody all at once -- there's the pop queen ('Safe From Heartbreak', How Can I Make It OK?'), the sentimental, indie heroin ('No Hard Feelings'), the sincere punk screamer ('Play The Greatest Hits') and front rock god ('Moaning Lisa Smile'). Beautiful balladry also makes an appearance in the form of, frankly, stunning centrepieces from their first two albums, 'Silk' and 'Planet Hunter', both are show stoppers. The band recently acknowledged that they've been playing 'Bros' for nine years and still get the feels when they do. A raw demo of the song copped a LOT of attention in 2013 and the song has evolved and grown since. Tonight is the last version (until the next version) and delivered with the now defining "are you lights on?" and with the arm-hair raising bridge, good enough to end the ever-enduring argument of the best bridge - "Oh, jump that 43 / Are you wild like me? / Raised by wolves and other beasts / I tell you all the time / I'm not mad / You tell me all the time /I got plans." The song arguably remains the band's greatest and feels like a premature finale, such is the audience reaction.
'Giant Peach' closes the main set, Oddie ripping out his power shapes and guitar licks for the intro, before it eventually gives out to what can only be described as a band possessed, slaves to the music. There was never any doubt an encore would ensue and, swiftly returning to the stage and declaring that they love us so much, they're moving to Brisbane (bet they say that to all the cities), they opt for a pair of calmer crowd-pleasing diamonds that still permit loud audience participation. Leaving us, jaws in hand, with 'Last Man On Earth' and 'Don't Delete The Kisses', it's now evident, if it wasn't before, what an utter privilege it is to exist on the same planet at the same time as Wolf Alice. Let's hope for a bigger room next time - dearly beloved Tivoli, we all love you dearly, but you don't seem quite up to containing this enormous outfit anymore, clearly now geared for huge festival crowds and big rooms. Such a criticism is purely picking, however, as it's similarly an absolute honour to see them in a room this size. They're one of the world's most important bands in 2022, a clear culmination of hard work and immense growth, a lot of playing and, perhaps most importantly, a flawless ear for quality control. They are the headlining band the world needs -- three perfect albums deep and without setting a foot wrong, effortlessly walking the line between commerce and art. Like many an outstanding Britband before them, they're a masterclass in creative badassery and are going to be around for a long, long time if they choose to be.
YOU'RE A GERM
LIPSTICK ON THE GLASS
SAFE FROM HEARTBREAK (IF YOU NEVER FALL IN LOVE)
HOW CAN I MAKE IT OK?
PLAY THE GREATEST HITS
VISIONS OF A LIFE
MOANING LISA SMILE
NO HARD FEELINGS
- encore -
LAST MAN ON EARTH
DON'T DELETE THE KISSES
INTERVIEW WITH GUITARIST JOFF ODDIE (MAY 26, 2021) FOR BLUE WEEKEND