For Wolf Alice, 2018 has been quite the year. With ‘Visions Of A Life’ laying out the remainder of 2017 with a expansive and forward-pushing new album full of intriguing bite, this has been the year which has cemented their standing at the top of the food chain. Throwing off the shackles of any simple ‘indie’ hook, it’s been a progression that has been both stunning to watch but also inevitable. They’ve always promised more.
Delivering big with debut album ‘My Love Is Cool’, their next move has been covered in their own identity – and now they sit amongst the great bands of modern times. There’s been a run of shows and festival slots which saw them club the ranks to headline the Radio 1 Stage at Reading, there’s been touring across the globe (in all its far reaches), there’s been playing stadium stages and then just the small matter of scooping the Mercury Prize for the powerful next stage in their career which had us all in awe. They’re no longer just another guitar band with promise, but one leading the charge for an entire generation of bands to follow. That’s how important Wolf Alice are. Rounding out the year at Brixton Academy, they don’t just toast a success to the road that got them this far, but confidently stand on the cusp of something even greater.
With Christmas tree adorning the stage, that sense of charm and cracks of laughter ring true just as much as the first time they ever took steps on a stage. Despite feeling grander and bristling with accolades and achievements under their best, they’ve never lost sight of who they are and what they want to achieve. Tonight, is a celebration of it all – dipping across their entire career for a night that doesn’t feel like a necessary nod to the success of ‘Visions Of A Life’ but more of a moment gathering mates in one space to revel and look how far they’ve come.
On stage, they’re more visceral and powerful than ever, a dedication to the world they’ve created full of jaw-dropping heights and vulnerable lows that pull you in on each and every track. Ripping into ‘Yuk Foo’ and ‘You’re A Germ’, it’s a thrilling ride across their career – dropping into rarities such as ’90 Mile Beach’ and ‘Storms’ in a manner which elicits devotion and singalong euphoria in equal measure. ‘Visions Of A Life’ is the star of the show, a dense and rewarding showcase of how far they’ve come, defying expectations in a similar vein to how ‘My Love Is Cool’ lifted them above and beyond. ‘Planet Hunter’, ‘Sky Musings’ and ‘Formidable Cool’ jump between ripping punk fury and heartbreaking vulnerability with ease – while ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’ lights up the capacity room in a serenading bliss which finds Ellie front and centre on stage as the congregation sends every word back.
More than anything, it’s a night that shows how Wolf Alice are more than just a band – it’s everyone amongst us learning to cope and deal with a world of heartbreak and fear all around, searching for optimism and hope. Whether it’s spitting against it all with ‘Fluffy’ (which sees the band light the room in sizzling kicks), stripping things as raw as possible with a spine-tingling ‘Blush’, crowds raising arms in air and bodies on shoulders for a rare cut of ‘White Leather’ and every single shade of it all coming together for ‘Visions Of A Life’ itself – it proves that what’s made Wolf Alice so important isn’t just the fact they’re an ace band, but because they’ve distilled the unrelenting emotion of it all into one mix. Not coating it in pretence, showbiz or irony, it’s all there for everyone to see. When Ellie steps away from the mic during ‘Bros’, and Theo raises his pint to a room drowning out every word, the evidence is clear. This means more.
As ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’ segues into ‘Giant Peach’ and a confetti-snow fall – Wolf Alice are done with the year. They’re arguably done with an entire space in time, one which has taken them from critical darlings to an award-winning force that have proven their growth and standing. What Brixton Academy proves is that they’re now more than a band. They’re a symbol of an entire generation, one which captures every human emotion – even when they or the packed crowds gathering to see them don’t want to scream and shout about it.
The essence of what makes them great, is that they’re simply being who they are, and in a world of fake news, false pretence and nonsensical decisions, maybe that’s the most important trait of all. Whatever they do next, it’s sure to be essential.
Words: Jamie Muir