Gig Review by Ryan Beardsley with Photography by Jeremy Carron

Christmas gigs are always great, aren’t they? The atmosphere is festive with fancily dressed elves, reindeers and even Father Christmas himself in attendance at Brixton Academy, and to top it off, the Harry Potter theme is pumped through the speakers as Wolf Alice’s presence is imminent.

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Unfortunately, this magical moment is sullied by the voice of famed political analyst Danny Dyer, offering his reckoning on Brexit, soiling John Williams beloved theme and raising the subject we’re all here to forget about. *Note to Wolf Alice and any other band – no one cares about your political views.

Now we’ve got that unpleasantness out of the way, Wolf Alice embark on stage looking ever so slightly nervous, evidenced in Ellie Rowsell’s slightly rigid vocals as they tear through second album highlight Yuk Foo to open the show.

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Next up is You’re A Gem from 2009’s My Love Is Cool and I begin to panic a little, as something seems just a bit off, the two opening numbers seem a tad rushed and Rowsell’s usually impeccable voice is almost incoherent, but again I put this down to adrenalin for such a massive show and I hope the band aren’t overwhelmed by their surroundings.

Thankfully things begin to settle down and the band get into their stride, with Rowsell clearly the star of the show and the crowd are mesmerised by her every movement as she floats across the stage. The rest of the band appear to know and respect this, apart from irritating bassist, Theo Ellis, whose ‘look at me’ style of performance reminds me of that annoying keyboard player from The Automatic who used to scream along during all their songs. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of them, it’s probably a bad reference.

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By the time the band are five songs in with Blush, they have found their rhythm and Rowsell’s voice is back in it’s perfect, floaty range. At this point I can’t help but notice my surroundings and the crowd has a real mix to it, almost evoking a family atmosphere, with school kids fresh from breaking up for the holidays, to couples in their fifties gearing up for Mad Friday.

There’s nothing at all cool about this, though I’ve always suspected My Love Is Cool is something of an ironic title, as the band are anything but and have always seemed to embrace this. This is actually refreshingly positive, making them far more endearing than all the braggadocious lad bands we’ve had to endure in recent years, of which I could name a few, but I won’t.

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After The Zero Hour snaps me out of this train of thought and it’s a pleasure to appreciate the full range of Rowsell’s voice, with the crowd transfixed in awe. I had clearly underestimated her prior to the gig as she constantly exudes her enormous stage presence, she really could be up there on her own.

About halfway through the set it occurs to me just how good their Mercury Prize winning second record, Visions of a Life really is. Don’t Delete The Kisses is a pure anthem and in a different era should and could be a number 1 record. Planet Hunter follows and I’m slowly becoming aware I’m witnessing something special and my previous estimations have been completely blown out of the water.

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I started the night thinking that Brixton Academy might be too big a setting for Wolf Alice, and as we approach the finale, I realise that if album number three is another belter, they could well be looking at a Glastonbury headline slot within the next couple of years. (Hey if Florence and the Machine can do it, why not Wolf Alice? Frankly WA are infinitely more interesting.

But it’s not over yet and we still have time for even more crowd pleasers, as Rowsell lets her hair down (literally) because it’s time to rock out, Space & Time is warmly received an excellent thumping rock song and the crowd are going wild with added Christmas cheer.

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Fluffy rounds the evening off with the amps turned up to 11, and a curtain call is richly deserved with a brief encore ending with first album favourite Giant Peach. Their last few songs illustrate just how varied the sound of Wolf Alice can be, ranging from hard rock to a gentle ballad, over to a funky dance number topped off with a sing-along anthem, bravo.

It’s clear from tonight, Wolf Alice are far and away Britain’s best current alternative act and Ellie Rowsell is a bonafide star who could well go on to do some amazing things. Her voice has the power to reverberate through an arena, coupled with the intimacy to make you feel as though you’re the only other person in the room. I’m already looking forward to their next record and their next gig.

One minor final bugbear, they didn’t play my favourite song. Listen, If Danny Boyle chooses one of your album tracks to soundtrack the sequel to the most important British film of a generation, you should probably play it live at your biggest gig.

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