Patrick Wolf • One Night in Heaven
Event by: Big Machine
UK: 90 min • BandStock.com • Heaven, London
As the house lights came down a bank of footlights set at the back of the stage flared into life, bleaching out the small, smoke engulfed, stage. A wave of anticipation swept swiftly through the intimate but packed railway arch that lies deep beneath London’s Charing Cross Railway Station. Then a hulking black mass loomed onto the stage, appearing like Doctor Caligari silhouetted against the blinding fog, and the crowd, comprising of fans, family and the music press, exploded with excitement – the sort of reception befitting such a theatrical entrance.
It was like watching one of the great performers from the glam rock era, Bowie or Bolan, as this figure caped in black unfurled itself, cutting great shadows through the kneading smoke, opening up to a rolling beat cut with a staccato violin:
Don’t you see, danger, danger
Danger ahead – toward oblivion!
All ye beware indeed for we were taken straight into ‘Oblivion’ a new track from the forth coming album The Bachelor. It was a bold move to open the set on a new song, but the track powered its way through our rib cages with its marching bass offset by the ignis fatuus of meandering strings, the melody of which drew the crowd deep into the marshlands of Patrick Wolf’s world.
The opening pace proved to be relentless as the tempo went from the canter of ‘Oblivion’ to the gallop of ‘Tristan’ sending the crowd into a frenzy. Throwing aside the cape to reveal a quilled jacket draped over a harness Patrick thrashed around the stage wildly whilst maintaining to deliver impeccable vocals.
The opening trilogy of powerhouse songs was concluded with an energetic performance of ‘Battle’ the second track of the night to be taken from the new album The Bachelor. A frenetic and defiant song chanted out over heavy drums reminiscent of the early punk days of Adam and the Ants.
But Patrick Wolf is a musician of many facets; switching gear dramatically he took the crowd from the spiky ‘Battle’ to the melancholic and haunting piano that forms the suicide note ‘London’. This was indicitive of the set list, which explored the full range of his œuvre – a generous dose of new material and many seasoned favourites including a triptych of songs comprising of ‘Accident & Emergency,’ ‘The Libertine’ and ‘The Magic Position’.
His ability to segue between (and fuse) the classical with the contemporary is exciting & invigorating and is made all the more intoxicating because his music is informed by, and steeped in, musical & literary traditions. His subject shares the themes of the classics, and in the retelling of those stories he is able to invoke the musical traditions that told them the first time round, in the same way Tori Amos and Kate Bush are able, with the lyrical skill of Morrissey.
Patrick Wolf has all the charisma of the great ‘70s glam rock stars with the sensibility of a troubadour, and like all troubadours he has a tale or two to tell. If the sample of tracks we were treated to are in anyway a yardstick for the new album, his new storybook is darker and more sinister than his last and more akin to the colour of his first album Lycanthropy.
As Patrick returned to the stage, with the incredibly talented musicians that formed his band, to perform the final song of the night ‘Bloodbeat’, I was reminded of Amy MacDonald’s rites of passage song ‘Barrowland Ballroom’:
I wish that I’d saw Bowie, playing on that stage
I wish that I’d saw something to make me come of age
and I smiled, with the knowledge that we had tonight witnessed something special, and that each and everyone one of us would never have cause to say, “I wish I’d seen Wolf, playing on that stage”…
Photos by Crazzybobbles