Rock Band Calls On Their Reserves After Nearly Missing Pyramid Stage


Of all the bands spearheading the indie revival, none change shape like Wolf Alice. Their style is a palimpsest: shoegaze here, garage rock there. Folk, grunge and electronica are also part of the mix.

Emerging at a time when guitar music was becoming increasingly moribund, they’ve done pretty well to get where they are. Three top-five records (the last of which went to No. 1). A Mercury Prize. A British award. A Grammy nomination. Key to their chemistry is vocalist Ellie Rowsell, whose talent for storytelling is matched by a voice that can shift from shimmering falsetto to brawling rage.

On the Pyramid Stage, she is extremely entertaining. However, the north London foursome almost didn’t make it to Worthy Farm: their flight from LAX was canceled yesterdayprompting Rowsell to tweet, “Does anyone have a private jet in LA?”

Fortunately, they managed to get a flight to Seattle and then to London. If there’s a bit of drowsiness, the band manages to call on their reserves, stringing together their shots like a full-throttle bobsleigh, pretty much in control. “Smile,” with its crisp guitars and Rowsell’s almost rap-like delivery, is the defibrillator to rouse the crowd from a mid-afternoon lull. “Let’s have fun,” she beams, before launching into “You’re a Germ,” a propulsive track about sexual exploitation from their debut album. My love is cool. She cackles, barks, struts.

It’s when Wolf Alice slows things down – allowing the nuances of Roswell’s fine vocals to be fully appreciated – that they’re at their most powerful. “Lipstick on the glass”, from 2021 blue weekend, sits beautifully alongside the heady rush of “Bros”. Moments later, bathed in orange light, she sings “you f***ed with my feelings” on “Safe from Heartbreak.” Arms swing in unison, as the soothing strains of “How Can I Make This OK?” wash away a fainting crowd.

There’s also room for the claustrophobic “Silk,” in which Roswell tells us “my love is killing me slowly,” and “The Last Man on Earth,” during which Roswell sits at the front of the stage, again bending these voices on scintillating pianos. There are some sound issues. But whatever. As they end with a surprisingly beautiful rendition of “Don’t Delete the Kisses”, from their second album Visions of a life, it’s clear that the future of guitar music is in good hands.

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