Wolf Alice | Review
+ Support Sunflower Bean
The Ulster Hall, Belfast • Monday 27 November 2017
By Emma McKinley • Photos: Tremaine Gregg
What a difference a year makes. Wolf Alice return to Belfast after their 2016 visit to Mandela Hall, this time riding a huge wave of success that came with the release of their second album Visions Of Life, to play a mind-blowing show in the Ulster Hall. The four-piece indie/rock/grunge outfit formed in 2012 in North London have established themselves as a genre-defying, award-winning, up and coming act that are gathering momentum and show no sign of stopping anytime soon.
New York trio, Sunflower Bean prove themselves to be ones to watch. Promoting their new single ‘I Was A Fool’ these guys are no strangers to Wolf Alice, having toured with them back in 2015. Vocalists Julia Cumming, Bob Dylan look-a-like Nick Kivlen and drummer Jacob Fader provide us with sunny post-punk, indie-rock which is passionately delivered throughout; most notably in their hit single ‘Easier Said’ off Human Ceremony. Cumming’s vocals are warm and vibrant in contrast to Kivlen’s (coincidentally) raspy tone and as they close with ‘I Was Home’ they leave us all with a good taste in our mouths as they make way for our headliner.
Wolf Alice arrive onstage to a backdrop of blood-curdling screams from the crowd as they dive straight into the celestial ‘Heavenward’ plucking us all out of the arena and immersing us into an awesomely distorted, crackling sea of sound. In a moment of respite from blinding strobes, a single beam of light falls on Ellie Rowsell wielding her guitar and alternating between her two mics delivering sweet aetherial melody lines punctuated perfectly with visceral screaming. Drummer Joel Amey’s stuttering cymbal-rolls drive the anthemic opener with guitarist Joff Oddie providing long wailing guitar lines that hang perfectly over the firmament.
Grungy ‘Yuk Foo’ and dreamy sugar-laden pop like ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’, which is breathily performed by Rowsell lying down at the front of the stage, may be worlds apart stylistically but coexist happily in this relentless set. Old fan favourites like ‘Your Loves Whore’, ‘Silk’ and ‘Bros’ off 2015 album My Love Is Cool are greeted by the exact recitation by the crowd, who stand spattered in the glimmering light of the disco ball illuminating the dark hall and sit perfectly in amongst their new material.
Everything about the set is delivered seamlessly and professionally with an unyielding energy that’s infectious. Pandemonium occurs when bassist Theo Ellis shouts out, “We f*cking love coming here, Belfast!” before breaking into their 2013 debut single ‘Fluffy’, an angst-laden screamer peppered with Oddie’s shrieking Pixies-esque guitar and Ellis’ frenetic bass as he convulses stage left with a mosh pit opening front and centre. Much to the dismay of the riled up fans the band departs from the stage and return to the same bloodcurdling screams from the start to break straight into old favourites ‘Blush’ and ‘Giant Peach’.
Looking back at the rapid growth of the band over the past few years it’s hard to imagine Wolf Alice will be playing venues like the Ulster Hall for too much longer. With the quick evolution between their first two albums and an incredible live show under their belt, it’s hard to imagine what could possibly be coming next from them. Until then, we’ll just have them on repeat.