Back in 2013, a much-hyped Wolf Alice rocked up to their headline show at London’s Lexington – the 300-capacity site of their then biggest gig to date – and proceeded to have an absolute ‘mare. Amps broke, songs were restarted and there was a good 10 minutes of silence as a visibly cringing Ellie Rowsell attempted to make vague banter to fill the void. It could have been terrible, but even then the London quartet had fostered a tangible sense of goodwill through a combination of affable charm and a songbook that was clearly outdoing itself by the day that rendered the show an endearingly shoddy success. With a clutch of songs that would go on to form debut ‘My Love Is Cool’ already in hand, there was obviously something about this lot that exceeded any kind of unfortunate technical hitches.
Fast forward four and a half years, a superlative, benchmark-setting first album, and a game-raising second in this year’s ‘Visions of a Life’, and we find ourselves in a very different setting altogether. Gathered in the cavernous surrounds of North London’s Alexandra Palace, their congregation now swelled to a sold-out, 10,000-strong throng, Wolf Alice are here tonight to come good on all that promise and cement their status as the leaders of this generation’s indie pack. And, even in the kind of giant venue that hosts a food truck-laden forecourt before you reach the bands, there’s still that same sense of buoyant goodwill that radiates around every corner of Ally Pally tonight.
It’s partly down to the tour’s chummy support bill – a perfect one-two of old friends that layer the vibes high from the start. Superfood finish up a summer spent resetting their own bar with the release of game-changing second LP ‘Bambino’, with a small but perfectly formed set that cribs all the best bits of it and winds up with a celebratory, moshpit-inducing run through of their namesake debut single. There’s plenty in the crowd here who’ve followed the band in tandem with their headliners, and it feels fitting that the Birmingham duo soak up a little of the joy too.
Sunflower Bean, meanwhile, toured with the Wolfies back in 2014 and return an even more full throttle force. Rattling between buzzing, glam-infused riffs and the sweeter tones of recent single ‘I Was A Fool’, their knack for switching up dynamics at the whip of a hair flick is even more fine-tuned than ever. They end with the thunderous fuzz of ‘I Was Home’, sounding effortlessly comfortable on the biggest stage they’ve played to date.
And so to the main event, who arrive with beaming grins that show the importance of tonight is far from lost. Kicking into the swathes of shoegaze fuzz that open ‘Heavenwards’, from the off it’s noticeable that ‘Visions of a Life’ has given Wolf Alice a fresh set of tricks to play with. ‘Yuk Foo’ immediately sends the energy levels rocketing; ‘Planet Hunter’ is a glacial storm – a cathartic purge that’s simultaneously intense and mesmeric; ‘Beautifully Unconventional”s bright-eyed ode to friendship could be throwaway but instead rings with easy warmth. When they dish up the giddy romance of ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’, replete with whirling disco ball, Ellie decked out in a long white slip dress, it’s like the band are soundtracking everyone’s gooey prom moment; for a band that can rage with the best of them, they don’t shy away from putting a lump in your throat either.
The familiar whirling motif of ‘Bros’ enter like an old pal, while the old favourites that earmarked Wolf Alice as next level competitors (‘Lisbon’, ‘Fluffy’) still sound enormous now they’ve graduated to the big stages. There’s something undeniably righteous about hearing these early nuggets sung back by a crowd that’s followed them the whole way, and there’s none more notable a depiction of the two-way gratitude that fills the room than when the band invite a teenage fan on stage to play (and totally smash) the riff to ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’.
They finish with the joyous thrash of ‘Giant Peach’ as an explosion of silver confetti unites the room in one celebratory sweaty mass. It’s a special moment from a special band, whose potential seems more limitless than ever.