Patrick Wolf is the opposite of an enigma. Someone who has given his all to his music and putting his vivacious personality across and has been stung, labelled and misunderstood. He does split opinion but, from the opinion of someone who has always followed his music with admiration and largely ignored the comments Wolf tonight dubs ‘jealous’, there can be little doubt over the man’s talent as a musician and a lyricist.
Tonight, Wolf is preceded by Yacht – a daunting, clever, strange and frustrating band from Portland. Jona Bechtolt and Claire Evans make up the two piece which spent the entire set leaping up and down, enjoying impressively choreographed dance moves and shouting down their white microphones. In possession of, realistically, no more than three decent tunes Yacht go for the jugular, encouraging audience participation, constantly asking questions – there’s no way this was just an exercising in waiting for the main act with a presence in front of you. The force an opinion, one way or the other, and for this audience member it was nice attitude, live drummer please and learn to sing in tune.
Wolf himself enters the stage to an atmosphere not unlike that which a boyband might meet. Screaming girls jossle for position, men in gold sequined trousers (yes) vie to be seen by the figure in the middle of the stage dressed in a cape, jump suit and sporting what can only be termed a ‘Britney-mike’. The handsfree device causes Wolf problems throughout the set, constantly slipping but does not affect the sound and allows him to express himself in his unique, ostentatious manner. Rattle through hits from his most popular third record, The Magic Position and new album, The Bachelor out today that day on new label Bloody Chamber Music.
If Wolf is scarred by the inferences and jibes that have been made about his vast redirection in music (when first ShadowPlay reviewed him he was a lang-haired shy type who spoke through his stark violin) and bisexuality then he shrugs it off well. He mentions the media a couple of times and touchingly dedicates the rip-roaring set closer The Magic Position to ex-girlfriend Ingrid who used to live above the Camden Underworld just a few yards away from tonight’s venue, but he comes across as someone more than happy in their own skin and persona. Climbing up ladders, attacking his piano, praising his band (which includes Electric Soft Parade and Brakes guitarist Tom White sporting a dubious ‘tache) and gentle playing the dulcimer bathed in a spotlight Wolf is a multi-faceted, multi-talented chameleonic musical superstar of the type that Bolan or Bowie would be and are undoubtedly proud of. We’ll even forgive him for using the word ‘showbiz’.