By Jack Deacon
Remember, remember, the third of November, for this was the date on which Patrick Wolf performed a spell-bounding and accomplished set at Brighton Komedia.
Photo used under creative commons by sing me a song
His gripping display of instrumental and vocal flair was coupled with a great show of warmth towards his fanatical ‘wolf pack’. The adoration from his fans comes partly from his genial – but flamboyant – demeanour and partly from his gift for storytelling that’s evident on each of his five albums.
Heritage (Wind in the Wires); love (The Magic Position and Lupercalia); depression (The Bachelor); and politics (The Bachelor again) are some of the themes that Wolf has overtly explored but he often gets lost on his travels and reaches far beyond the subject matter.
Fans of his earlier work perhaps derive the greatest pleasure of all from listening to his new music and seeing him bloom because they’ve seen how dark and disturbing – but equally brilliant – his work can be (songs The Childcatcher and Lycanthropy from the Lyncanthropy album stand out as examples).
Wolf’s deeply personal albums have attracted a committed fan base that’s grown to know and love Wolf (unfortunately for them, on New Year’s Day he announced his engagement to William Pollock via Twitter).
He opened his set with an energetic rendition of Overture that instantly rested fears that he would be fatigued from his packed Lupercalia tour (this was his tenth gig in thirteen days, and the nineteenth of forty-four shows planned overall).
The courageous Time of My Life and contented House came shortly after and made it clear that Wolf was a man more at ease with himself than he has been when touring his past releases.
His latest album, Lupercalia, may be more accessible (apparently a criticism) than its predecessors but it follows on poetically from his previous album The Bachelor, in which he was at war with himself and the world (he sings in Battle: “Since I was 12/It’s been me versus the world/I got so sick of being told/My identity was in minority”).
If he’d ventured any further down that path he would’ve reached self-destruction, so it’s surely a blessing that he’s fallen in love and is feeling at one with the world rather than rallying against it.
Possible Christmas-hit Time of Year was sandwiched in between the two songs, and features on Patrick Wolf’s new EP Brumalia, released on the 28th November.
He stormed through his timeless back-catalogue with both fervour and introspection, intermittently charming the crowd and giving a mention to relatives present.
The audience were particularly buoyed by The Libertine – from his 2005 Wind in the Wires album – a delightfully (and typically for Wolf) poetic song that combines folk with electronica and talks of him running “the risk of being free”.
After covering Joni Mitchell’s All I Want, he went off stage momentarily and reappeared with a silver, glittery top that drew whistles and whoops from the audience.
A wander into the crowd soon followed and the manner in which the mesmerized audience parted to allow his 6’ 4” frame through, while desperately reaching out to make contact with him, displayed how in awe of Wolf his fans are.
Admittedly, I succumbed to this feeling too, and it’s taken me up until now to get over the five seconds during which he held onto my arm.
For the encore he performed The Magic Position and summer-hit The City while wearing a stuffed-bird on one shoulder, and the wolfpack responded to the infectious songs with heartfelt howling and dancing.
As the audience flooded out of the venue, there was a collective feeling of sadness about the gig ending, but a sense of privilege for witnessing the genius of Patrick Wolf.