Home > Reviews > Live Reviews > 31/10/2011 | Patrick Wolf – O2 Academy, Oxford

31/10/2011 | Patrick Wolf – O2 Academy, Oxford

Maria Turauskis


Patrick Wolf is somewhat of an enigma. Recognised as a highly creative, theatrical and intriguing character, Wolf’s music flirts with both the dramatic and the accessible. Indeed, throughout his latest album, Lupercalia, he has demonstrated some significantly longwinded moments of mellow, commercial pop, even gaining a playlist slot on very middle of the road BBC R2 with some of the album’s singles.

Wondering how this conundrum of a performer would transfer on stage, I was at first slightly disappointed by the distinct lack of spectacle (on this most gratuitous of nights) when Wolf appeared on stage, wearing a simple black leather jacket, with a fairly understated string of garlic draped over his mic stand. However, when the music starts, there is almost a visceral, electrifying vibe that descends on the crowd, conveyed through the instruments, through Wolf’s voice, and through his inspiring charisma.

The initial impression musically, which pervades throughout the performance, is the richness of the general sound and each instrument’s individual timbres. The backing band are all excellent performers, offering a luscious, deep collective of sound on both the sparser, more stripped down tracks, and on the more heavily laden tracks. It is a surprise how “folky” the general sound of the performance is tonight – there is much more audible grain on the violins and violas, a deeper resonance from the steady bass drum than on record. The rhythms of the music also cement the traditional folk vibe, so that at times Wolf almost seems like a replication of a young Peter Murphy. That is not to say that the performance is low-key folk affair, however. Whilst there are more subtle moments interspersed, there is a wealth of drama, of heavily contemplative, romantic music, twisted with spurts of alt pop and lashings of electronica.

Whilst the music is fantastic, it is Wolf’s innate, subtle talent as a performer that ultimately steals the show. His presentation is full of grandiose gestures and heartfelt earnestness, and his deep and vibrant vocals resonate richly and emotively throughout the room. Wolf physically drifts like a zephyr from instrument to instrument, flirting now with piano, now with harp, now with ukulele. This is done with such an endearing nonchalance, like every performer is a natural multi-instrumentalist who just happens to play the dulcimer.

Initially fairly quiet with his audience, Wolf opens up about half way through the performance by detailing quite personal information on the ideological conception of the single Time of My Life, which like most tracks from Lupercalia originates from positive romantic developments in Wolf life. From then on, Wolf becomes chatty with the audience, and at times seems genuinely touched by the sincere reception he has received. The audience have been highly positive and heart-warmingly keen throughout the performance, but by the end of the gig they are positively in raptures, especially after Wolf’s perfect encore, which was filled with plenty of clapping, smiles and dancing.

It really is a beautiful sight to witness an artist, not only of incredible technical and creative talent, but also one who genuinely transfers his own personal, exhilarating, unabashed romanticism and happiness upon the audience. With another musician these sentiments might be over earnest, tired, and sickly sentimental, but with Wolf they combine, musically, intentional, and personally to create a deeply rich, vibrant, diverse, accomplished, and above all effortless experience. Utterly, utterly wonderful.