Wolf Alice 22.7.21 at O2 Academy, Bournemouth
Back again to a normal gig. The first ‘make up your own rules’ gig for me since Lockdown, and this happened to be the place I last went to a ‘normal’ pre-Lockdown gig, that night to see Blossoms. (Blossoms blog here.)
Back in March 2020 we were nervous but had no idea was was coming in the full 15 months of varying restrictions that have followed. So much dirty water under miserable bridges since. We’ve kept it going with sit down, spaced out gigs, local bands playing outside and live streams but this, tonight, was what was missing.
A few days before I got an email setting out some entry rules: proof of double jab; recent lateral flow test pass or some other comfirmed exemption from that. It showed willing but it would be easy to fabricate I guess. The only rules left are basic routine health and safety risk assessment and a miriad of govt guidance to have a think about.
As we walked in to the main street through Boscombe centre, where the O2 Academy is, we saw the huge queue snaking down and round the end of the shopping area as punters waited patiently to share their medical credentials for entry. The O2 phone account priority entry is worth remembering if with O2. Show your App signed in and you can just wander in jumping the whole queue which felt like cheating.
I was angling for the middle balcony standing area to just keep a little bit out of the main potential infection risk area. When we got in though we saw that the top balcony – The Gods – was open and went for the wide back row of the three up there. Surprisingly good view as the venue is not large but it’s often shut.
The ground floor was already bouncing. I wasn’t aware of who the support act was and I think it was a ‘DJ set’, just some decent tracks playing that most of the ground floor were singing along to with huge enthusiasm – Valerie, Amy Winehouse; One Way or Another, Blondie; Pulp and many more. Stifling heat made it a sweaty start. This build up was quite euphoric – out out at last. A bit of mask wearing round about and at the bars and the odd bottle of hand gel but this was a ‘trust in the vaccination’ night out. Brilliant atmosphere. Really quite special and we hadn’t really started.
I bought these tickets quite recently, just a few months ago, when their tour info popped up on my phone – not many acts were risking July dates unless already booked and postponed to new dates. I’d been playing the new album – ‘Blue Weekend’ – but didn’t know their stuff that well. I saw them support Foo Fighters at West Ham United..The London Arena in Summer 2018 (26 June), captured here by someone on You Tube who was there. Having vowed to see them again they took a bit of a break and then it was Covid time so it’s no wonder their return is so enthusiastically awaited. It’s two years since Wolf Alice played a ‘normal’ gig.
Wolf Alice formed in London in 2010 with the core being Ellie Rowsell with Joff Oddie on guitar, a few years later adding Theo Ellis on bass and Joel Amey on drums. This was the band tonight with the addition of a keyboard player for the tour. (My pics aren’t the best but I was up in The Gods.)
After a few singles in 2013 they released debut album ‘Love is Cool’ in June 2015. This, along with their two other albums, was listed for the Mercury Prize but it was the second album ‘Visions of Life’ that won that prize in 2018, after its 2017 release.
‘Beautifully Unconventional’ is my pick off that one, here performed in the Radio 1 Live Lounge.
Tonight’s Wolf Alice set
By 8.45pm the singing, sweating crowd were at bursting point and on came Wolf Alice. Relief and euphoria. They started with ‘Smile’ from the new album, one of eight tracks taken from the new album – ‘Blue Weekend’ – some of these never having been performed live before. No I wouldn’t have known this but there is enough intense interest in this band to guarantee a well scrutinised and updated set list on-line within hours.
The crowd was as bouncy and mobile as I can remember at the O2 here in Boscombe, spurred on by the early appearence of ‘Beautifully Unconventional’ and ‘Formidable Cool’ in the set. Mosh pits opened up all over the place – these vaccines better be good. I was happy to watch from above tonight with the near aerial view…not ideal for my pocket zoom pics mind.
Barely any chat between songs beyond a whoop here and there and smiling appreciative faces at this frenzy. It might have been two years since the last proper show but no one had forgotten them.
They do have a really good mix of material with the wild and more aggressive bits further fuelling the mobile pockets of moshing. Atmosphere was dripping down the walls.
You get the drift from this phone clip from above – this was one from the latest album: ‘Play the Greatest Hits’. (My phone clip on YouTube)
I can hear bits of Siouxsie in there at times on the punchy ones or Liz Fraser, Cocteau Twins on the quieter ones. I imagine quite a cross over with a Florence and the Machine audience. Hard to guage trend mind as most were dressed for the beach.
Not a particularly long set but an intense hour and a quarter before they finish with the title track from their last album, ‘Visions of Life’ before one more as an encore from the latest one ‘Last Man on Earth’.
A brilliant performance in front of a brilliant and very sweaty audience. Even The Guardian reviewer must have enjoyed it and could feel the heat – Guardian review.
Home for a Lateral Flow Test. 😁