Wolf Alice + Sunflower Bean + Superfood @ Barrowlands, Glasgow 12/11/2017
Last night was the second of two nights running for Wolf Alice plus support at Glasgow’s iconic Barrowlands venue. The crowd was an eclectic mixture - about equally male/female - which veered from teens through 30-something hipsters to indie veterans and a few ageing hardcore gig-goers. It’s always a strong sign when a headline band’s appeal extends across such a huge demographic.
Not that the support bands were anything to sniff at. Musically, Superfood isn't exactly a perfect fit with the more rocking Wolf Alice. Then again, they don’t quite fit in with anything. They’re a bit of an eclectic blend of Blur-style Britpop, Red Hot Chilli Peppers/Prince-style funk, bubbly electronics and early 1980s ska. They were in colourful and super-fun form. Their idiosyncratic style isn’t for everyone but they’re definitely a band who could (and arguably should) stand on their own two feet as a headliner.
New York’s Sunflower Bean is a more straightforward indie-rock band with a slightly dreamy, grungy shoegazing vibe. Musically, they’re kind of similar to Lush and Madder Rose, the latter being another New York band who were vaguely popular during the 1990s. While the sprawling and crowded Barrowlands arguably isn’t the best venue for their moody guitar-orientated pieces to really shine, they maintained enough energy to keep a grip on the crowd.
Headliner Wolf Alice are a band who fully justified the rapturous response from last night’s crowd. Their songs are addictive, larger-than-life propositions which jump between just about every base in the indie music landscape. One minute it’s a bouncy, noisy lo-fi piece like Yuk Foo, the next a catchy 1980s-style instant hit like Beautifully Unconventional, at another the suffocating PJ Harvey-style quiet-loud intensity of Formidable Cool.
Ellie Rowsell’s singing, likewise, can be bruisingly punkish during one song (in the style of Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon), beautifully wistful and in another (similar in feel to Austra’s Katie Stelmanis). No matter where they decide to go, however, they always remain fantastic. There’s an epic, soaring majesty that lifts every song high above its eclectically noisy backdrop to a realm of pure emotional wonder. Last night their visual accompaniment included an eerie forest background - lit up in colours coordinated with the stage lights - which added a distinctively primal and pagan edge to the proceedings.
Ellie didn’t spend a huge amount of time interacting with the crowd - but in this case, it didn’t matter. Last night I heard the most deservedly enthusiastic and curiously synchronised calls for an encore that I’ve experienced in a venue for a long time.
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