At the beginning of March, I was fortunate enough to make it to the last two nights of Wolf Alice’s UK tour for their most recent album Blue Weekend — first in Bristol, and then in Birmingham.

Bristol has to be one of my favourite O2 venues, tucked away at the bottom of a hill. The excitement among those queuing is palpable, and only builds when the support band, Lucia and the Best Boys, arrive on stage. Their energy and constant dynamism is infectious and, despite their music being unfamiliar to many in the crowd, they immediately have everyone onside.

Wolf Alice follows, opening with the gutsy ‘Smile’, but ‘Bros’, mid-setlist, is when the crowd really comes to life. It’s a unifying song about friendship — knowing glances are exchanged, and people hold hands with those next to them and chant the words. Someone immediately spills an entire pint over my friend next to me. The messiness of collective experience has returned in full force.

“Each member of Wolf Alice is a strong personality”

The songs of Visions of a Life, an album which for the most part feels euphorically adolescent, blend seamlessly with the more recent songs from Blue Weekend, which has been widely hailed as a more mature album. At their gig in Bournemouth in the summer, I overheard Theo Ellis (bass guitarist) telling a fan that it was impossible for them to play the transcendent ‘Delicious Things’ on tour because it’s too orchestral. But they’ve clearly figured it out, and, if anything, it’s even more rousing live. The rowdy ‘Play the Greatest Hits’, too, has really found its live sound — it is introduced with distant sirens, and the crowd realise what’s coming, and then everyone in the band lets rip under the strobe lights. It’s definitely one of their most moshy songs, and my ribs hit the barrier countless times. There is a teenage boy in front of me who I end up completely leaning on like we’re best mates, and we laugh it off.

It’s hard to choose who to look at on stage, because each member of Wolf Alice is a strong personality, and they’re all doing such different things all the time. Ellie Rowsell (lead singer) commands the stage with stillness and awkward grace, while Theo and Joff Oddie (guitarist) distract with their wild facial expressions. Joel Dilla (drums) and Ryan Malcolm (keys) are tucked away at the back and are a little hidden from where I’m standing, but somehow radiate positivity nevertheless, filling out the songs and adding layers.

Ellie Rowsell 'commands the stage with stillness and awkward grace'Tilda Butterworth

The few hours after a Wolf Alice gig, when everyone goes their separate ways or hangs around to smoke or find a local pub, are always full of happenstance. In this case, locating somewhere to have a pint is easy — The Hatchet Inn is directly over the road, bustling with those who had spilled out of the venue. In the street, we meet the members of Lucia and the Best Boys, who are bubbly and approachable. Lucia Fairfull (lead singer) tells me she likes my blue eyeliner, and Ally Scott (drummer) asks our names with a smile — a striking juxtaposition to their somewhat impenetrable and intimidating onstage presence.

“The band leaves the stage in a mess of embraces and a cacophony of applause”

The Birmingham O2 Academy, in my opinion, is much less hospitable than Bristol, and queueing for hours in the cold the next day is also not particularly enjoyable, but the unusual energy which always surrounds the last night of a tour makes up for it. A bunch of flowers, a bra and a packet of cheestrings fly onto the stage over the course of the set and Ellie flings them back, unphased. She has what comes across as an air of exhaustion and slight frustration, which is understandable — the band’s popularity has soared since their Brits win, and with that, perhaps, comes unwanted attention. After all, Wolf Alice has always been a relatively unassuming band, seemingly reluctant to accept praise.

A favourite moment from the night comes during the gentle ‘No Hard Feelings’, when Ellie perches on the edge of the stage alone. The security guard, who has been presiding over the crowd, moves away, but Ellie calls her back: “You can stay if you want!” She does stay, for the duration of the song, and the contrast between them is amusing and endearing.


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The encore arrives all too soon and, as always, the screaming from the audience during ‘The Last Man on Earth’ feels unfortunate. During any other song, crowd participation is not a problem, but the song is about isolation, and the sense of solitude is accentuated by a stark white spotlight on Ellie as she sings. Yelling from the crowd somewhat drowns out the pared-down vocals, and shatters the illusion. The opposite is true for the final song on the setlist, ‘Don’t Delete the Kisses’, which seems to hold some kind of significance for everyone. The crowd knows every single word, and chants them along with Ellie like a prayer. It is a song which adapts well to congregational singing — after all, it is all about devotion. Afterwards, the band leaves the stage in a mess of embraces and a cacophony of applause.

Milling around by the tour bus after the show, Theo entertains us with stories, makes a face at the taste of my Russian cigarettes, and almost succeeds in pocketing my lighter, while Ellie seems a little nervous and on edge while writing out lyric tattoos on the back of random pieces of paper being thrust towards her. Theo thanks us profusely and earnestly for coming, and then disappears into a taxi to head to the afterparty, leaving his shark tattoo anecdote unfinished. Despite garnering so many new fans over the past months, Wolf Alice is still the same down-to-earth band they have always been.