After a year away from the music world - or in a sort of ‘hinterland’ as he described it - Patrick Wolf made his comeback last night at London’s Bush Hall.
Martin Bjorck, who looked a bit like a more conservatively dressed version of Wolf, kicked things off fairly slowly with a few decent numbers at his keyboard. With ‘house’ lights up, minimal backing and a crowd anticipating the flamboyant presence of Wolf however, the performance was largely a forgettable one. That is, until he laid his last track on us: a pun-filled song about planting his flag ‘on your soil’, only made dirtier by some subtle pelvic thrusting. Nice.
Once we’d spent almost an HOUR ogling one crowd member’s Gaga-inspired Coke can hair rollers, Wolf finally took to the stage in what can only be described as a monochromatic, slimline, Mr Blobby baby-grow. It was, he assured us, couture.
With a seven-piece band behind him, moody, coloured lighting and the charmingly modest surroundings of Bush Hall, the multi-instrumentalist created quite a spectacle, with an even selection of songs from his latest three albums: Wind In The Wires, The Magic Position and The Bachelor as well as an impromptu version of Paris from his debut record, Lyncanthropy.
Diving head-first into the drama of his fantastical chamber-pop with Hard Times, Wolf had fans bopping and chanting from the get-go. That Gaga-hair girl was literally in her element.
The frantic melodies of the electric violin rang through from beginning to end - a key feature that seemed to ground Wolf’s eclectic mix of genres - and it was particularly hard-hitting in the staccato arrangement of the fervent Oblivion.
‘Poppier’ tracks from 2007’s The Magic Position went down well, with Wolf even making an instrument out of his elaborate necklace at the start of Bluebells. But he kept the crowd waiting for what they really wanted before eventually giving in and performing the title-track during his encore.
Actually, that last bit could be a total lie. We’re only assuming this is what happened because we had to leave before the encore started so we could make our train home. Perhaps, had we not been kept waiting so long between acts or had Wolf not tried to explain the details of his introspective tracks to such an extent, we might have been able to enjoy the whole show.
Rounding things off with Tinderbox - the never-before-played b-side to the folksy Vulture - Wolf went off on one about writing the song during a bout of depression whilst living in Olympia. We can't really remember what else he said after that really because we were too distracted by the fact that he fell off his stool during the moment of poignancy. No, we shouldn't laugh but it was a bit funny.
Wolf's impressive, intimate and jam-packed set ended with a high level of expectancy, with fans excited about the forthcoming release of The Conqueror, his next album, which is about finding true love. Thank goodness for that. We could use a dose of happiness after all that artistic melancholia.
There is no doubt that Patrick Wolf is an extremely talented musician, lyricist and performer, intriguing even the initially disinterested. He camps up the most dismal of tales with his energetic and intricate orchestral performances and sings faultlessly. But he somehow manages to dampen these experiences by dwelling on the meanings behind his lyrics. That sense of mystery is never there with Wolf, who truly wears his heart on his album sleeve. Self indulgent? Yes. Pretentious? Not quite.
Release date: 2010-08-05