If rock is dead then someone clearly forgot to tell Wild Flag. The American four-piece, made up from ex-members of Sleater-Kinney, Helium and The Minders, embody everything that makes the genre so exhilarating. In fact, as Carrie Brownstein and Mary Timony - the singer-guitarist combo that front Wild Flag - held their guitars aloft towards the end of the gig at the Electric Ballroom, it was almost as if they were paying homage to the six-stringed instrument that they both used to such devastating effect.
The four seasoned performers - who are all in their late-30s or 40s - set about their business with supreme confidence and engrossing unpredictability, with both Brownstein and Timony, in particular, at their captivating best. It's certainly easy to see what made the band's eponymous debut album such a universal hit with fans and critics alike. Songs such as Black Tiles and Something Came Over Me make the transition from the record to the live performance with incredible ease. The band's ability to capture the rawness of their debut album is mainly due to it having being recorded live. And it shows on Short Vision, where Timony's squirming riff is delivered with utmost precision, as an animated Brownstein belts out a no-nonsense, brooding vocal.
Brownstein and Timony certainly know how to command the stage, with the duo engaging in several breathless guitar duels throughout the set. However, it's also impossible not to recognise the importance of Rebecca Cole's stuttering keyboard or Janet Weiss's furious drumming to the band's overall complex. The short burst of Future Crimes highlights their influence perfectly, with Cole's fluttering keyboard and Weiss's thumping drum beat complementing the song's jagged guitar riff. Yet it is when the band are as one that they really shine, such as on the unassuming and intricate Electric Band. There was an unquestionable communal feeling as the band invited the audience to "come join our electric band".
The band were on form in between songs, too. "This is our first proper time in the UK and I'm having a very English experience at the moment," announced Brownstein, "I've been listening to PJ Harvey and reading Stephen Fry". Well, that's a whole lot better than a quip about drinking lots of tea and reading Jane Austen. The band then launched into the sprawling, 5 minute-plus Glass Tambourine, allowing the quartet to harmonise in unison and giving Brownstein and Timony another chance to show off their superior guitar skills. Those claiming there is a lull in guitar music just aren't looking hard enough, because with bands like Wild Flag around, it is sounding as strong as ever.
With the end drawing near - and the bitterly cold evening awaiting - the band brought out the big tracks, including the scintillating Boom and the raucous, skew-whiff riffs of Racehorse. The boundless energy that Wild Flag showed on stage was infectious throughout the gig, with the chorus of "pony up, pony up" from Racehorse returned back with emphasis by the near capacity crowd. However, the best response of the night was reserved for the crunching guitars and addictive chorus of the band's second single, Romance.
As is now custom, the band briefly filtered off stage. Yet it was not long before they were coaxed back on for an encore by a rapturous ovation in appreciation of what had gone before. Before closing with two stunning covers of Television's See No Evil and Patti Smith's Ask The Angles, Brownstein revealed, "I just spilled water over my amp... amateur move right there," before adding, "not that you would have noticed if I hadn't told you". And she was completely right. Not a single person had noticed it, instead, the crowd were too busy enjoying Wild Flag's astonishing, rock-affirming performance.