Slightly lost and looking for the venue, I came across hundreds of people winding through the streets of Leeds and I immediately knew I had found the place. There was an air of excitement circulating outside the O2 Academy, and it occurred to me just how important Wolf Alice’s music is to so many people. The band have certainly gained traction since the last time they visited Leeds where they called at The Cockpit, a venue that holds 500 people, as a pose to the 2,500 fans who eagerly awaited the sounds of Visions of a Life. This growth is however of little surprise, with a Brit nomination, an NME Best Track award and an NME Best Live Band award, it’s safe to say that Wolf Alice are firmly on people’s radar. I waited with eager ears to hear the band that shamelessly claim rock music as their own, in the town that Ellie dubbed “lucky lucky Leeds”.
Superfood were the first band on stage, with their deliciously groovy sounds providing the perfect appetiser. At first I was taken back by the unusual lack of crowd interaction, with just a few evident fans infected by the sounds of opening tracks ‘Where’s The Bass Amp?’ and ‘Natural Supersoul’. This however wasn’t a reflection on the band’s energy, as they moved their way through the diverse sounds of Bambino (a name that roughly translates as little boy), complete with all its laddish charms. In the three years since the release of Don’t Say That, Superfood have been re-born, now embodying sophisticated, funk-saturated sounds that are reminiscent of the 80’s. With a heavy bass present throughout most of the set, it was impossible not to be consumed by their sounds. Songs such as ‘Raindance’ enabled Ganderton and Malcolm to showcase their amalgamated harmonies and clear on-stage relationship. Finishing off their set was the song ‘Superfood’, an evident crowd favourite that certainly everyone boogying. Superfood are always a treat, but the showcasing of their new tracks made for an extra sweet one.
Three musicians, two boiler suits and a Lou Reed T-shirt are the components that made-up the Brooklyn based Sunflower Bean. Their look, sound and presence immediately made me feel as if time travel were real and I had been transported back to a better time; one where music meant empowerment and liberation. Lead singer and Bass player Julia Cummings was a powerhouse, supported vocally by lead guitarist Nick Kivlen. With all members having only just entered their 20’s, their impassioned performance was one to which I was awe-ridden by. The trio moved through their dreamy-rock sounds, including their most popular track Easier Said which incorporates elements of ethereal-pop, reaching great vocal heights. The crowd sang back multiple songs from debut album Human Ceremony, which runs some parallels to sounds of The Sundays and Siouxsie and the Banshees, with a whimsical quality. Closing their set was latest release, ‘I Was A Fool’, a song that only enticed the crowd for more. Fortunately for them, Sunflower Bean will be calling back in Leeds for a headline tour in the Spring.
By now the Academy was buzzing with energy. The stage was lit up with a spellbinding, story-book-esque backdrop. Just as the crowd was brimming with anticipation, the lights went down and the venue was filled with frantic, rapturous applause. It was immediately apparent that I was somewhat unprepared for the magnitude of the set that was about to unfold. With a singular spotlight on a blackened stage Ellie was illuminated wearing, a cutsie black slip dress, for a performance that would be nothing of the kind. The haunting notes of ‘Heavenward’ encompassed the venue; it was goosebump inducing and emotion-ridden. Ellie was nothing short of iconic, with breath-taking vocals and an evident passion which seemed to embody a generation of the disillusioned, and quite frankly, the pissed off. Their first single ‘Yuk Foo’ then took over the venue; its fully charged components sparked chaos amongst the audience, as many shouted back the lyrics for their own form of catharsis, over the boisterous, screeching guitar parts. The intensity continued through songs such as ‘You’re a Germ’ and ‘Your Loves Whore’ with Joff and Theo raring up the crowd in primal fashion from both sides of the stage. And there it was, the cult-like fan base which so many bands can only dream of.
Self-evidenced love song, ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’ complete with all it’s clichés, had a distinct resonance and clarity of emotion that simply stole the show. The band moved through their 90-minuet set with conviction. They were wild, free and hedonistic. There was a degree of spirituality throughout ‘Planet Hunter’ and ‘Visions Of A Life’ which was facilitated by the cohesive foundations set by the rest of the band as they bounced off one another seamlessly. The epic night was finished off all too soon by the all-encompassing rock of ‘Fluffy’. However, as expected an encore followed which was composed of the highly awaited ‘Blush’ and ‘Giant Peach’. Without want of exaggeration it is safe to say that Wolf Alice provided one of the best performances I have ever paid witness too. I would highly recommend catching them if ever you get the opportunity, and if you haven’t already, be sure to grab a copy of Visions Of A Life – it most certainly won’t disappoint.By Rebecca Higginbottom