Patrick Wolf rose to the small club stage circuit of London as the self-acclaimed Peter Pan of the indie scene; an extraordinary, enchanted boy whose intricate creative charm outlasted the repetitive pop songs that buzzed hollowly across the dazzling pages of UK music magazines. He conquered jaded crowds with simple folk tales which overflowed with the poetry of distant memories, upbeat pounds and sparked-up animalistic howls that writhed at the edges of popular folk. It was back with his first LP Lycanthropy that Patrick Wolf shone in his rawest, most uncompromising, even somewhat anarchic form, uniting the indie misfits under the umbrella of a self-built, eccentric gypsy kingdom. Second album Wind in the Wires then sailed with a similarly savage vibe of lyrical folk romanticism, permeated with sharp pulls of strings and wild beats, before an upbeat melancholy and feeling of angry nostalgia took over on his third, The Magic Position, and became the main theme of his fourth, The Bachelor.
With his fifth LP Lupercalia successfully accomplished, the prolific Wolf is no longer an anarchic child of London. He now shines on the glittery pages of magazines that have denied his talent for years, captivating every show with a fresh positivity and entrancing pop songs of love, long kisses and happiness. Tonight is dominated by Lupercalia and its prevailing optimism. When Wolf casually strolls on stage, thrumming humbly on his acoustic guitar, a unique, intimate concert is promised. “Overture”, the opening jewel on The Magic Position, with its suspenseful drum section and a dreamy violin solo, replaced here and there by the rhythm and simple charm of a guitar, sets the mood for the evening. Soon Wolf breaks into the lyric “it’s wonderful what a smile can hide”, enforcing entranced smiles on everyone’s faces. Traditionally suited up with black bonbons scattered on his shirt like a modern incarnation of Bowie, he once again becomes a hypnotizing show on his own terms, mesmerizing the audience with his stage image.
The mise-en-scene of the stage, where lights shine from pop-up wooden houses to the backdrop of a hand-drawn portrait of the city, attracts attention as the melodies of Lupercalia and Wolf’s deep, moving vocals become strikingly more intense and heart-rending with his every turn. What is also of note is the bond between Wolf and his fans. Although having changed significantly over the years, now bringing to his shows more thought, performance and grandeur and moving away from the wild improvisational shows of his early career, Wolf still maintains the same natural and completely genuine audience connection. Despite visible tiredness, Brighton being the second before last stop on his current British tour, the sincere Wolf smile and casual chatter remains, as it does at every Wolf show, whether it be a splendid London Palladium setting with backing orchestra or a small intimate night on the top floor of a dingy, crowded Welsh club. The crowd cheers along, spontaneously reacting to casual gags and stories that always seem most natural to Wolf, who relishes reliving and revisiting the lyrics of each song.
The beautiful chamber arrangements of Lupercalia‘s “The Falcons”, “The Future” and “Bermondsey Street” are supported by enchanting thrums of a harp. While “Damaris” and “The Libertine” form a nostalgic bridge to the optimism and upbeat jumps of “Time of My Life” and the untamed wilderness of “Accident & Emergency”, Wolf putting the show on full blow. “Who Will?” in its fantastically remixed form, keeps up the pace, before Wolf – now decked out in a silver glitter shirt, finishes the set proper with the most magical pop moment on Lupercalia, the buoyant love anthem “Together”, during which he walks into his devoted crowd, embracing fans and dancing along as he goes, taking the already-established crowd intimacy to a new level, and sparking a quite magical musical togetherness.
Back for an encore, voraciously applauded and cheered, and with the beautiful and comical artifice of a bird attached to his shirt shoulder, Wolf gives the crowd their long-time favorite, “The Magic Position”. It turns into a big sing-along as the audience welcomes the song with a familiar dose of windswept enthusiasm. Quenched with the sheer happiness of the gathering, Wolf waves goodbye with the first Lupercalia single “The City”, the song, although lacking in the beautiful instrumental complexity of a large part of Wolf’s work, still leaving the crowd with a simmering energy to conquer the rest of the night.