Edit this event
- Phoenix, Exeter, Devon »
I was convinced for a while last night that he wasn’t in the venue and wasn’t ever going to be in the venue. I’d heard rumours of a virulent hissy fit at a gig earlier in the week, and after his truculent mood when we last saw him at Birmingham in the spring, his announcement earlier in the year that he’d never play live again, and his occasional prima donna tendencies, you never know quite what to expect from* Patrick Wolf. *Lightspeed Champion, ex of Test Icicles and supporting tonight, paced the venue way past the allotted starting time of his own slot. (His own set, when it came, was minimal and truncated, an acoustic guitar and some too-fresh songs, but he seemed to enjoy himself.) I was sure I saw kids in tears because doors were an hour late in opening.
Two and a half years ago when we saw him at the same venue, Exeter’s Phoenix, Patrick Wolf made me fall in love with him. I already liked his music, but with just himself and a drummer in front of 50 people, carrying his songs on his astounding voice and innate musicality, flitting from viola to ukulele to a too-small piano that he wrapped himself around like a Tim Burton stop-motion animation, he was intense, bizarre, aloof and astounding. At Bristol’s aqueous Thekla, again earlier this year, he was a roiling glitterball of good vibes and energy backed by a band who knew how to glam it while still leaving him firmly in the spotlight; a completely different kind of experience, but just as wonderful. Last night I was convinced he would simply be absent.
But I was wrong. In the end Patrick was 40 minutes late onstage and in a foul mood; the van had broken down en route from Brighton and he'd spent four shivering hours stuck on the motorway. He had no setlist and began the gig by moaning aimlessly and banging his instruments seemingly at random. But then he sat at the piano and eased his way into ‘Teignmouth’, a local song for local people.
Slowly, surely, he opened up, warmed up, felt the love of the whirly, glitter-dolled 15-year-old indie girls and boys who made up the crush at the front (while all us beardo musos hung out at the back) and he shone, re-arranging his songs, making my heart stop with an unexpected but timely acoustic thump of the hole in his ukulele, pulling out ‘The Libertine’ when requests were called, running ‘Augustine’ into ‘Land’s End’, turning ‘Demolition’ into a beautiful, ethereal looped drone for piano and voice, picking up an acoustic guitar for a new song that channelled the windswept, West Country blues of PJ Harvey’s formative years, and revelling, luxuriating in the beauty of his music.
Because while making music is clearly something that comes as naturally as breathing to Patrick Wolf, playing it in front of an audience clearly isn’t. On more than one occasion in the early part of the set he looked ready to walk out mid-song and leave the music business forever. I hope he never does.
Lightspeed Champion was pulled onstage for a rambunctious final run through of ‘The Magic Position’, and that was it. Furnished with a mug marked “love, Patrick” and a smile, we made our way home through the gestating frost.
Photo: Lucy Johnston
- Weekend Listening: Stay+, Patrick Wolf, Halls, Exitmusic, Stereophonics, Deftones
- Patrick Wolf - Sundark and Riverlight
- Weekend Listening: Gwilym Gold, Jens Lekman, Erol Alkan, Patrick Wolf + lots more
- In Photos: Patrick Wolf @ Old Vic Theatre, London
- In Photos: Lovebox Festival 2012 @ Victoria Park, London
- Patrick Wolf - Brumalia
- In Photos: Patrick Wolf @ Sheffield University
- In Photos: Patrick Wolf @ Reading Festival 2011