Oxford gets hungry like the wolf

With their off-kilter blend of folky-Britpop and grunge, Wolf Alice have developed an incredible online following and were named by BBC Radio 6 Music as the most blogged about artist of 2013.  Superfood too built their initial following online and this, combined with the band members’ young ages has understandably led to a pretty young fan base. Indeed, as I stood quietly in the upstairs of the O2, surrounded by boisterous teens sloshing their cokes and chattering excitedly, I felt almost too old to be there. Even before the support took to the stage, cups of unfinished drinks were hurled into the air, ice cubes scattered amongst a few older, bemused faces.

Though Superfood’s quietly confident set caused some distraction from all this, their jangly guitar riffs, clattering drums and pretty groovy bass lines were far too infectious to ignore. Frontman Dom Ganderton’s snarling, Blur-esque vocals encompassed the 90s nostalgia vibe surrounding their sound with single ‘TV’, a slice of pure Britpop. The cooed backing vocals of the eponymous ‘Superfood’ had a more chilled, slacker feel; in fact the whole set was pretty relaxed, with very minimal crowd interaction, they seemed almost proudly shy. Though the catchy motifs were a definite hit with the crowd and their lyrical encapsulation of the boredom and insecurity of youth will have struck a chord with many present.

Wolf Alice on the other hand, were far from timid, blistering out of the blocks with new single ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’ that had the front part of the crowd pogoing instantly. The ruckus heightened further with 2013’s ‘She’ and by ‘Your Love’s Whore’, a mosh pit had started up with very few of the youngsters paying any real attention to the music.

While the band had contagious energy and pace, it didn’t seem like the sound had been set up quite right, with vocalist Ellie Rowsell’s beautifully haunting voice lost under the far too heavy drums and bass. It was a real shame as even the subtleties and intricacies of the numerous guitar layers, an intriguing and very original aspect to their on-record sound, were lost in the melee. It seemed they had gone for sheer speed and volume on every track, disappointing as their real selling point is the baffling variety of music they produce.

The stand-out moment by far was ‘Blush’ when the drums and bass eventually calmed and Rowsell’s truly captivating vocals took centre stage. This slid slickly into a sublime cover of Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’, delivered by Rowsell with a sensual confidence. Unfortunately, the first minute or so of this quieter section was totally ruined by the people at the front who continued to scream and shout and jump up and down, rather uninterested in the songs when they weren’t blasted and blared at them.

The bassist seemed pretty unimpressed by their antics and the set seemed to end rather abruptly followed by a rushed and somewhat pointless one track encore of ‘Fluffy’, a cracking song that should really have been given more time. All-in-all it was an enjoyable, invigorating performance containing seven or eight minutes of pure genius, let down by fairly shoddy sound and an ignorant, unappreciative crowd that was no fault of the band at all. Perhaps another venue would have been more accommodating to their intricate sound.