Halfway through a celebratory run of sold-out headline shows across the UK, Wolf Alice stop off in the North East for a joyous return to Newcastle, bringing their loaded discography with them – with additions from 2020’s acclaimed Blue Weekend joining the setlist, their performance is more triumphant than ever.
Matt Maltease gently warms up the building first, though, with delightful and high-reaching vocals breathing a chilled vibe into the excited room. He leads his trio with dancing keys, backed by a slick drum and bass setup that is incredibly effective for the stripped-back mood the group permeate, and a jazz groove soon becomes infectious. Charming commentary on the construction of songs like ‘Curl Up And Die’ fills time as the thousands gather, but the set feels more akin to lobby music catering to a restless energy as opposed to a spark of hype.
When Ellie Rowsell, Joff Oddie, Theo Ellis and Joel Ameywalk on stage, though, that much-craved trots right on with them. Dominant bass roars throughout the entire venue during opener ‘Smile’, with Ellis also serving as a hype man on the sidelines. This begins a 90-minute show that focuses primarily on lapping up the victory of their recent successes – and rightfully so – although the next track up, ‘You’re A Germ’, quickly revs up to prove that old hits still go hard. Wolf Alice are an outfit that hardly need to encourage audience interaction as it arises naturally, and the standing crowd quickly have the floor bouncing.
A similar pattern continues to unfold, with blatantly modern and yet also retro-sounding renditions of ‘Delicious Things’ and ‘Lipstick on the Glass’ building momentum and having the Geordie fans totally enraptured throughout. A detour with 2015 single ‘Bros’ proves to manifest complete magic, inspiring inevitable goosebumps, attentiveness and overwhelming joy with heartfelt lyrics and sonics – a song originally released as a sophomore track back in 2013, this crucial moment displays the excellence Wolf Alice have portrayed since the beginning and have only built upon since.
Far from an isolated incident, the enchantment survives into the jangling ‘Safe From Heartbreak (If You Never Fall In Love)’; Amey rests his weighty rhythm while Oddie dons a precise guitar to accompany Rowsell’s ambitious and frankly angelic vocal lines. The lights dim to a singular spotlight, casting her silhouette and exposed regrets on the monochrome wall.
Dynamic mastery is flexed time and time again – the explosive frivolity of ‘Play the Greatest Hits’ transitions into an enchanting display of delicacy and self-prioritisation in ‘Feeling Myself’, and later Rowsell levels herself with gig attendees physically and emotionally on ‘No Hard Feelings’ before shaking the ceiling with ‘Giant Peach’ only 30 seconds later. An expected encore of ‘The Last Man on Earth’ and ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’ is nonetheless lapped up, with fans gripping onto every last second they can get in the group’s presence.
It is this level of inspired attachment that has cemented Wolf Alice as the best band in Britain right now, although a BRIT award to attest this certainly doesn’t hurt. The four musicians have established a surreal dynamic, not just with one each other but with every single listener who tunes in – Rowsell’s vocals draw you in with the underplayed assistance of Oddie’s riffs, Ellis’ basslines pulsate through your veins and Amey’s pounding drives the entire show forward and touring member Ryan Malcolm’s keys are an exciting addition too; they unite to form an entity greater than its constituent pieces. A celebratory evening in every sense of the word with a respectful standing ovation to prove it, all eyes are on Wolf Alice just as they have been for the last decade.