Patrick Wolf - 02 Academy 2, Birmingham
First things first: it's a crime that Patrick Wolf has been ignored by the mainstream for almost a decade. True, his musical output and uncompromising glam image (which, back in 2009, had an air of S&M elf about it) may not have always been the easiest to swallow, but he's also had a handful of brilliant pop singles to his name - I dare anyone to disagree that 'The Magic Position' is anything less than one of the best alt-pop songs to come out of the noughties. It seems like Wolf's luck and hard work may be changing though, following a public endorsement by some crazy chick called Lady Gaga. New album Lupercalia is out in the summer and, although it's yet to be seen whether little monsters everywhere will take Stefani Germanotta's word as gospel, things are looking good that this may just be Wolf's most successful project to date.
Dressed in a bold red pantsuit, Wolf emerges with his band who dot themselves around the stage according to where multi-instrumentalist Wolf is stationed. For some songs, he's bashing away on the keyboards, for some he's plucking a harp, for others he has a violin tucked under his arm, and so on and so forth. The ladies and gents who join him onstage are similarly diverse in their talents, ensuring the symphonic quality of Wolf's recorded songs translates to the small stage of the Academy 2. The set opens with 'Time of My Life', last year's taster single from Lupercalia and a song that may not inspire dirty dancing like its cheesy namesake but does set the tone for the new material: lush, heartfelt and elevating.
The setlist ably mixes old fan favourites ('The Libertine', 'Tristan') with new songs and material from 2009's opinion-dividing album The Bachelor. That album is perhaps my favourite, although it represents a time when Wolf was frustrated and in an unhappy place; therefore, the self-pitying - yet quite brilliant - title track couldn't be a bigger contrast to the bold, bright new songs. Despite Wolf frequently showcasing his knack for orchestrating a beautiful ballad, as on the pre-encore pairing of 'Who Will' and a stripped-down yet permanently powerful 'Damaris', the mood tonight is a party one. Wolf is happy, and it shows. The audience doesn't even twig that he's losing his voice until late into the gig, and that's only because Wolf acknowledges it himself - until then, he's carried us away on a wave of Friday night escapism via blinding electro-infused anthems like 'Vulture' and 'Accident and Emergency'. At times, it's up to his band to focus on the music so he can be the showman, posing with mic in hand and not afraid to jump into the front rows and embrace his loving crowd.
It's the encore that ensures the faithful and the new converts leave the show on a high, though. 'Hard Times' flexes new muscles and confirms Wolf as role model for this generation's disenfranchised, but it's new single 'The City' (check out the video above) that is the gem of the set. If this song doesn't get him closer to chart glory then he'll be a cult star forever, because this shiny happy newie is bloody glorious. It's an unabashed love song and witnesses Wolf cutting loose and forgetting about being serious, which explains a cheesy yet welcome sax solo from one of Wolf's female band members midway through. With its propulsive drums and majestic harp, this can take a bite out of Florence Welch's fanbase no problem and single Pat out as the original post-Kate Bush diva. Followed up by a joyous 'The Magic Position', his signature closer that's met with rapturous applause, it appears Wolf is over his maudlin phase and now wants to make his wolf pack smile. Job done.