Yet another busy night down at the O2 Academy in Leeds as a large crowd were drawn in by the lure of three highly promising young bands on one bill. Naively I had expected the O2 to be predominantly populated by teenagers but a diverse age range of punters practically filled the venue.
The evening began with a boisterous set from Bloody Knees. They opened at high tempo with recent single “Stitches”. Their musical style reminded me of a less polished version of Eagulls. The front man spent a large portion of the set encouraging the audience, especially during their final track and latest single “I Want It All” where the crowd formed a circle pit at his behest.
It was then the turn of Swim Deep, a band who seem to have been around for twice as long as Wolf Alice. Swim Deep already have two quality albums under their belts, albums which contain a degree of variety. This set however seemed to be distinctly lacking in diversity, four tracks in it was hard to keep a tally of how many they had played because they were all merging into each other. Prior to their final two tracks “Namaste” and “Fueiho Boogie” boredom had begun to set in, and this was a set I was looking forward to pre-gig. They almost recovered the set with and energetic and strung out performance of “Fueiho Boogie” but until then they seemed to be just going through the motions.
Where Swim Deep left me feeling underwhelmed Wolf Alice exceeded my expectations. Maybe I am not as in touch with musical culture as I like to think I am but, I had arrived with the preconception that Wolf Alice aren’t big enough and won’t have enough fans to fill the O2 Academy. It turns out I had wildly misjudged the situation, not only did they have enough of a following to pack the venue but their fans absolutely adore them.
It is easy to see why they have such mass appeal, they have enough edge for indie fans to see them as viably credible and they have mastered the pop infused choruses which will appeal to Radio 1 listeners. The crowd, rowdy throughout, were full of praise and enthusiastic receptions for their idols. The energy being propelled from the stage was absorbed by the audience and spilled out into vibrant reactions.
There was a power to their performance which isn’t prevalent in the recordings. Drummer Joel Amey’s performance caught the eye as he impressively drove the set on, his work almost goes unnoticed on the album, but the real star of the show was singer and guitarist Ellie Rowsell. Her vocal range covers a wide spectrum and she swiftly and effortlessly changes gears.
In a set crammed full of highlights “Bros”, “90 Mile Beach” and “She” shone above the rest.