There’s a relatively sparse atmosphere upon arrival at The Cockpit for Patrick Wolf’s gig – Cocknbullkid (or at least one of them) are ill, and unable to support. So instead we’re treated to a mixtape of obscure indie songs and Lady Gaga album tracks, which we’re later told was put together by Wolf himself.
Despite the hype around Wolf as a theatrical and flamboyant stage performer, there’s little to his stage entrance – a slow, acoustic number to start with, followed by a string of numbers from his first two pre-Magic Position albums. It’s a choice that divides the audience – half seem to revel in the indulgent back-catalogue exploration, whilst the others seemed to be waiting for something they recognise.
Whatever song Wolf and his five piece backing band choose, their delivery of it is beautiful – there’s clearly been a lot of rehearsal behind this tour as each song is performed meticulously. Wolf seems able to pick up any instrument laid along the stage and play like it’s been the one he’s been practising for years. I couldn’t even name some of them, yet Wolf takes to them like old friends.
The stage setting is simple, with two cardboard houses whose lights change colour, and a large keyboard at the front covered in Wolf’s logo. Wolf himself seems equally demure, in a dark red suit – it’s a suggestion, perhaps, that he’s grown confident and comfortable in his musical capabilities, allowing the songs to take precedent over aesthetics.
The set grew in pace and volume as the night went on (imagine The Future from his most recent album, stretched over 100 minutes), and Wolf’s vocals matched this. Perhaps the thing that people don’t anticipate about Wolf is the power of his voice, which throughout the set sustained an uncompromising, haunting howl underneath the arches.
I recently saw Wolf perform at Manchester Pride – a difficult set which saw a member of the audience shout “We want the Sugababes” down Wolf’s microphone – it’s safe to say that Leeds’ saw a more relaxed, good humoured performer, who can still pack an emotional punch, particularly when performing newer songs Bermondsey Street and The City.
Whilst the set may have been a slow burner, saving the spark of bright lights toward the end, it showcased the might of Patrick Wolf’s song writing, performing and musical talents, and proved once more his, often unnoticed, position as an unfaltering modern pop star.
Words by Martin Carter