Live Music + Gig Reviews

Patrick Wolf @ Thekla, Bristol

8 February 2007

Patrick Wolf

Patrick Wolf

I am sure I was dreaming when I wrote this so forgive me if I go astray. My notebook is a litany of wild adjectives, non sequirs and exclamation marks. My heart is full of relief. Relief, that Patrick Wolf has delivered on his tender promise.

Relief, that the new material is flushed with youthful vigour. The order of the songs may be jumbled, the images blurred, it was intoxicating and vibrant. A glance at my fervent scribbles: vivid, striking, gypsy chic, beats and Byron, cheeky, charming…

The Thelka is a converted tug afloat in Bristol docks. A dark venue, that can be cold and unforgiving. Tonight Patrick Wolf turns into a gateway to a shimmering future, he is an avatar for the pariahs, an author of outsider anthems. An extraordinary boy in a world of prosaic chancers. Yet somehow he is living in the margins and not dazzling the mainstream. Why do we seem to have settled for the anodyne when we could have androgynous? Settled for the ordinary boys, the Razorlights and Keanes of this world. Why revel in the bland when we could be luxuriating in the exceptional.

From the moment he bounds on stage an lurches into Overture it is clear that the evening is going to dazzle and delight. There is a skip in his step, a snap in his violin bow. With his gravity-defying ruby hair and glittering eye shadow, he is Martin Miller’s Lux The Poet unleashed from the page.

Pop music is a powerful tool for reinvention. It can transform the awkward into heroes. On stage you can see the possibilities glinting in Patrick Wolf’s eyes. As the set progresses I am reminded of Marc Almond, those bedsit tales welded to disco beats and phat basslines. To The Lighthouse pluses with the guttersnip beauty that fires Almond’s finest work. His electronic duet with samples of Marianne Faithfull is as stark and touching as Antony And The Johnsons.

On Jacob’s Ladder, Wolf is sat at his synth banging out a harpsichord melody shaded by a lone cello. It’s a brief interlude before he is back on stage leading the crowd through a storming version of Accident and Emergency. The stifling heat results in him stripping down to a furry guliet. His skinny pale physique is not the only reminder of a young David Bowie. There is something in his blending of styles, his obvious love of the avant garde that are reminiscence of Bowie at his best.

The reading of Pigeon Song is achingly beautiful, the plucked violin strings and glistening melody framing his tale of loneliness on the streets of London. Special Position is a French kiss, a spiralling romp, its verses fluently flowing into its huge chorus. It could be the song that pushes him into the mainstream.

The eager crowd pull Wolf back for a second encore. He seems touched. Genuinely surprised by the warmth and desire of the crowd. A huge smirk breaking out across his boyish features, his eyes ablaze. A fervent fan has been badgering him all evening to play Wind In The Wires. He finally relents and produces a stunning rousing version. Backed only by his toy guitar his voice floats across the crowd and out on the waters of the Bristol docks.

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More on Patrick Wolf
Patrick Wolf @ Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
Patrick Wolf – Sundark And Riverlight
Patrick Wolf @ Roundhouse, London
Patrick Wolf: “I’m a little bit more of a master and not so much a train wreck” – Interview
Patrick Wolf – Lupercalia