Wolf Alice Review
by Ollie Hopewell

Photo by Tony Wooliscroft

Review for Ay Up Duck Radio’s Sugarmill Show

Saturday 25th September will go down as one of the most important dates in the history of The Sugarmill, the venue seeing another band performing as part of the National Lottery’s Revive Live scheme with the ground-breaking Wolf Alice the culprits this time. The ‘Mill was the first venue the band played outside their home of London and it’s safe to say that Wolf Alice have come a very long way since then, a feat obvious in their stylish performance on the night.



Kevin! took to the stage around 7:30, sporting a comfortable jumper and trousers combo while armed solely with an acoustic guitar; being alone on stage grants a lot of creative freedom but can often leave performances feeling lacking or underwhelming, but this certainly wasn’t the case for Kevin Rowsell as he jumped into a varied set, covering topics from heartbreak to dog theft. No, he really does have a song about dog theft, citing “That song is about dog theft, it’s no laughing matter!”.

Rowsell, brother of Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell, had the audience totally onside for his sweet but all-too-short appearance, serenading the crowd with melodies reminiscent of somewhere between Bowie’s Starman and the Adventure Time theme music. It’s got to be daunting playing on your own in such a stripped back way when you’re supporting one of the most technical and highly produced bands on the scene, but Kevin! displayed no signs of nervousness and delivered an inspired, humorous, and genuine performance which was a fantastic way to take the edge off the immense anticipation which had built before Wolf Alice took to stage.

I felt like we, the crowd, were in safe hands as Kevin! ended his set, and I was genuinely sad to see him leave the stage after a captivating performance which epitome of DIY, Rowsell having scrawled his setlist on the back of his hand. Highlights of the set were Hell and Glass, two very poignant and well-written tracks, sure to find their way into Kevin!’s debut EP.


Wolf Alice

Wolf Alice back at The Sugarmill. Read that again. WOLF ALICE BACK AT THE SUGARMILL. Sometimes life comes at you fast, but there had been tremendous anticipation for this gig from the second the tour was announced; The Sugarmill was teeming with life as a buzz of readiness filled the building, crowd members genuinely holding back tears of joy in anticipation of the main event before letting all emotions loose as the band took to the stage to the soundtrack of a deafening raw from their adoring audience.

The London shoegaze band used this mini tour as both a means of rewarding and thanking their many loyal fans in smaller venues across the UK and as a testing ground for their newest album Blue Weekend, an album which shows off every single thing the band are good at.

Beginning the set by tearing clingfilm off their pedal boards like a hungry guest at a wedding buffet, Wolf Alice began to play through Blue Weekend in album order. Kicking things off with the angelic crescendo that is The Beach, a ballad which immediately made the hair at the back of my neck stand to attention as the pure and elegant voice of frontwoman Ellie Rowsell was matched with a packed-out crowd singing every word back to her.

After plenty of smiles across the band and a quick dance of happiness from Rowsell, the band went straight into Delicious Things which bled into Lipstick On the Glass, tracks which made me feel as though I was socially enlightened by the powerful presence of a band who felt totally relieved to be playing live music again, I suppose it was no coincidence that The Sugarmill was the busiest I’d seen it in perhaps five years as fans gathered to bask in the musical excellence of Wolf Alice.

I’ve been a fan of Wolf Alice for a few years now and I was convinced that they couldn’t possibly sound as good live as they do on their studio work, and technically I was right in this assumption; Wolf Alice aren’t as good live, they’re much better. There have been times where I’ve been brought to tears and covered in goosebumps listening to the band, but this was a consecutive feature as the air was filled with gorgeous and emotional songs which brought several members of the crowd quite literally to their knees. I love seeing music take hold of people in such a strong way, it only reenforces the almost insane levels of talent on show from the five-piece.

For Smile the tempo totally changed, with bassist Theo Ellis prefacing the track with “Fucking come on then!” before doing high kicks round the stage as the band returning to the mixture of shoegaze and dream pop they are famed for, an emphatic performance from drummer Joel Amey getting everyone moving as the band delivered a track which felt like it would fit into a Smashing Pumpkins album.

The tempo was quickly brought back down with the double feature of Safe From Heartbreak (If You Never Fall In Love) and How Can I Make It OK?, the first of which was sung almost acapella as two light and twangy guitars faded into the background as the crowd serenaded the band with their own singing in a truly beautiful moment, How Can I Make It OK? being a track to allow the band to jam out as new addition to the band Ryan Malcolm displayed how much his keys add to each song in a slow but lively track, the crowd even chanting his name back to him after Ellie Rowsell formally introduced him.

The tempo jumped back up in Play the Greatest Hits, Rowsell sauntering up and down the stage as the crowd went mental alongside Amey and stalwart guitarist Joff Oddie, the entire building shaking before the band turned things back down a few notches with Feeling Myself, an emotional track which even brought a tear to Rowsell’s eye by its climax, with the rather large grown men around me bursting into tears at the beauty and, dare I say, majesty of the performance. This pace continued with The Last Man on Earth, a track which I can only compare to the feeling of falling in love for the very first time, the entire room stood totally still in a silent awe.

After a quick round of drinks were delivered onstage, I believe they were delivered by the legendary Tony Woolliscroft, Wolf Alice continued into a slightly giggly rendition of No Hard Feelings before ending the album on The Beach II, Rowsell expressing her desires to be in the crowd with everyone despite not being allowed, a statement that was of course met with several cheers and gestures to get her amongst the audience.

This was the first time Wolf Alice had played the entirety Blue Weekend live, and what a performance it was, the emotions of the album ranging from love, sadness, rebellion, angst, and everything in between as Stoke-on-Trent once again witnessed total excellence from music royalty. But the evening didn’t end there, the band opting to play several of their most popular songs, or as bassist Theo Ellis put it, “Alright, we’ve played the album, let’s have a laugh!”.

A duo of Bros and Formidable Cool got everyone dancing away as the band rocked out, each member seemingly having the time of their lives on The Sugarmill stage before Beautifully Unconventional was met with the largest roar of the night thus far, hint hint, before returning to the shoegaze sound in Moaning Lisa Smile. A riotous rendition of Giant Peach got the crowd to its liveliest as moshpits formed and the steel barrier at the front was almost shaken apart.

One song was left, and any Wolf Alice fans reading along will immediately know what it is due to its absence thus far. For the uninitiated and unaware I will preface this final song with quite a bold statement, a rather large feat for me given the insane levels of quality displayed in the last few reviews; I can die a happy man having seen Wolf Alice perform Don’t Delete the Kisses live, an event which was on my musical bucket list from the very first time I heard the song. Don’t Delete the Kisses was the perfect way to end the perfect gig and I cannot imagine anyone else holding such a large crowd captive the way Wolf Alice did, I can only dream of seeing them grace the stage of The Sugarmill again.


After several delays, we are finally back to producing consistent content for all of our wonderful readers. Thank you so much for your patience and support, our whole team is excited to continue to review the excellent bands hosted by The Sugarmill and to kick on into the new year during a very busy period for the venue. We’re so glad you’re along for the ride!


Follow The Sugarmill Show on Facebook and Instagram @thesugarmillshow


© Ollie Hopewell 2021
Contact: SugarmillShow@gmail.com








    Tickets: 0115 896 0163
    Telephone: 01782 243 104