Wolf Alice @ O2 Apollo, Manchester, 9 Nov
The London indie rockers take another step up, presenting new album Visions of Life and managing the graduation to larger venues with aplomb
The rise of Camden four-piece Wolf Alice has been rapid enough to ensure that even those fans able to claim they've been there since the very beginning have only put in about five years of service. Everybody else will have picked up, since, on a rock band deeply indebted to the 90s in terms of sound, aesthetic and attitude. It's the latter aspect – the fun and abandon they've always been able to offer onstage – that drew many of those followers in.
And yet, their ambition has them moving onwards and upwards at breakneck pace. The Apollo is not an intimate sweatbox of a venue. This is a beautiful old theatre that, at 3500 capacity, is the biggest room you can play in Manchester before you get to the Arena across town.
That's clearly what Wolf Alice have got their collective eye on. Their huge sophomore record, Visions of a Life, came out in September and every possible facet of the massive rock record came attached to it – recorded in LA with a huge producer, two strikingly different lead singles, and zero shame about the skyward sonic trajectory.
For what it’s worth, all of this translates seamlessly for the most part. Firing off the incendiary punk likes of Yuk Foo and You’re a Germ early on is clever – the crowd are quickly onside – but the pretty, almost spoken-word Don’t Delete the Kisses is the jewel in Visions’ crown, and the disco ball that glimmers out over the old theatre somehow fits it gorgeously.
The old cuts are all sharp as ever, from the rough and ready throwdown of Moaning Lisa Smile to encore opener Blush, as pretty now as it was when the group were armed with that track and not a lot else. It’s worth noting that the new LP's title track, though, falls a little flat; it’s almost sludgy in its seven-minute pitch for panoramic greatness, and it fails to ignite the room as it’s intended to.
Still, by the time the band round off a deserved encore with Giant Peach, singer Ellie Rowsell is racing along the barrier and bassist Theo Ellis is on playful, shirtless form too. Wolf Alice can legitimately claim to be Britain’s biggest indie rock band but, mercifully, they’ve not lost their sense of humour.