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Gig Review: Patrick Wolf @ Prince Bandroom, 14th December

He’s a bit of an eccentric one, Patrick Wolf. We all know that he has his bad moments, but the fact of the matter is that when he gets up on a stage, he is the born performer. There is something special about seeing someone do what they were born to do, and this is particularly true of Patrick Wolf.

His newest album, ‘The Bachelor’, is a very enjoyable record, full of vintage Patrick Wolf as well as hints at new directions. The fact that he completely self-produced it means that he had creative freedom, and it shows. On the back of ‘The Bachelor’, he has been touring around Australia, including playing at Meredith Festival and headline shows around the country.

His show in Melbourne, at the Prince Bandroom, the last of his Australian tour, was an absolutely epic gig, full of utterly insane moments, that was impossible not to enjoy. I left the venue late at night, not only back in love with Patrick’s music, but thinking that, despite the negative coverage, he is actually a really nice, intelligent, and funny guy.

The Prince Bandroom impressed from the very start. It was my first gig there, and despite the slightly inconvenient location for me, it was intimate, allowed the crowd to stand right at the edge of the stage, had friendly staff, and had really cool lighting effects for a smaller venue.

I missed the opener, Jessica Says, but managed to get a spot at the front for the scheduled start of Patrick Wolf. Half an hour later, and still with no sign of the man himself, the crowd  (which was suitably shiny) was starting to get restless. But then all of a sudden his band took the stage and started to play, soon followed by the arrival of Patrick Wolf. All negative thoughts were forgotten.

The first thing that struck me about him was what a dominating figure he was. Very tall, his presence absolutely owned the stage and the room, which was exactly what everyone wanted. He was dressed in some kind of feather vest, which would later be shed to reveal what looked like a S&M chest piece. Very Patrick Wolf. As the night wore on, he would make every instrument that he played look small in comparison.

Straight away you could tell the sound was great. There were a few problems with the equipment breaking slightly, as Patrick said: “It’s the last show of the tour, and everything is breaking, but we’re holding it together for you, Melbourne!”. There was many a panicked soundboard operator and venue manager running around trying to repair everything, but no-one seemed to really care: everything was way too shiny to worry.

Patrick, seeming truly grateful of the reception he received, announced that because it was the last show on his tour, he will “play until I get kicked off the stage!”. Everyone cheered, but I’m sure everyone was also thinking it was just one of those things that artists say to get a clap. We were wrong. What followed was a two-and-a-half hour epic show (nearly twice as long as many of his other shows judging by setlists), that I won’t forget for a long time.

Naturally the set was dominated by songs from ‘The Bachelor’. Damaris was received very strongly by the crowd, and the band absolutely belted out Battles, which works much better live than it does studio. Oblivion was of course spectacular, as was Hard Times, probably my favourite song off the new LP.

Perhaps the highlight of the show however came in the form of Theseus, also off ‘The Bachelor’. This song featured Patrick Wolf just sitting down with a dulcimer, which made for an absolutely magic experience when coupled with the beauty of the song, the atmospheric stage lights, and the very shiny crowd.

There was also a welcome smattering of older songs, such as Tristan, which just went off as the whole crowd sung “AND I AM ALIVE!”, and Wind In The Wires. There were a few songs off ‘The Magic Position’, Patrick’s second-most-recent album, but you can never have enough songs off this record. Bluebells was brilliant, but of course another highlight was The Magic Position, which Patrick closed the main set with. There wasn’t a still person in the room.

Incredibly, after over two hours, Patrick returned for an encore featuring no less than three songs: Bloodbeat followed by The Vulture, which up until then had been a notable exclusion from the set, and finished with a new song off upcoming record ‘The Conquerer’, which I believe was called Wild Life. He informed us that this last song had only been played once before, and it was a very interesting almost-disco/dance song, perhaps yet another new direction for Patrick’s music.

The music almost took a backseat to Patrick Wolf’s personality however. The show was dominated by moments of sheer insanity. At one point a woman from the crowd joined Patrick on stage, only to leap onto his shoulder when he was bending down, and to sit on top of Patrick Wolf for the remainder of the song. It was a very very unplanned, very very dangerous, but very very cool stunt.

And besides, how many artists would ask for a glass of “lukewarm water” during a performance? Patrick Wolf recognised this however, following his request by saying “You were probably expecting me to ask for absinthe or something, weren’t you?”. This was one of the things I learned from this gig: Patrick Wolf, for all his eccentricities, is a man who is able to laugh at himself, which is something very important that the media has missed. He even said “Just let me do up my…. thing” in reference to one of his strange costumes, and, upon blanking briefly when figuring out what year it was when he was 16, told the crowd that “As you can tell, I left school then”.

Patrick jumped into the crowd to sing a song surrounded by rapturous fans (twice), much to the dismay of panicked security personnel. One of my favourite moments of the show came when Patrick accidentally changed his keyboard into ‘Jazz Organ’ mode halfway through The Magic Position, causing the song to halt temporarily as he tried to figure out how to change it back to normal: he apologised, saying “I don’t use this one at home”.

It was Patrick Wolf’s interaction with the crowd that I most enjoyed this gig (I even touched his hand!). He was just such a natural, dominant performer, whether he was dwarfing the violin he was playing, rocking the electric guitar, or playing the keys. He swapped instruments so many times that it was impossible to count, although I know he wore three different costumes throughout the night, disappearing at intervals to quickly get changed.

Patrick dedicated The Sun Is Often Out to his friend and poet Stephen, who sadly committed suicide, and who the song is written about. As Patrick Wolf sat at the keyboard playing the song, it was a serene and sad moment, and the crowd were suitably (if only temporarily) subdued. He used the title of the song to point out to everyone that no matter how hard times seem, “there is always a Summer coming”.

Despite the epic nature of the set (Patrick noted that he had thrown the setlist out the window because he was playing so many songs), it was missing my three favourite Patrick Wolf songs, Overture, Teignmouth, and The Gypsy King, however he rarely plays these songs live so it didn’t really matter.

His band were impressive and tight, however they naturally and understandably took a backseat to Patrick Wolf. Even when he was offstage changing costumes, it was his lingering presence that dominated the stage. He also didn’t shy away from his troubles, saying that “I thought everyone hated me, but now I see you guys, and it just makes me so happy”.

I was thrilled with the music that night. But much more than that, I was so happy to finally meet the real Patrick Wolf. And let me tell you, the real Patrick Wolf seemed like he was a warm, funny, intelligent, and friendly person. I could not have been more impressed. For one night, we were transported into Patrick Wolf’s magical world, full of unicorn tattoos, shiny people, and lots of more adult stuff as well.

Patrick’s world is definitely not one for the feint of heart, but it was utterly enchanting while it lasted.

He finished the show, despite asking if he could play just one more song (but by this point it was nearly one o’clock), with tears of happiness in his eyes, saying that “I’ll be back next year. How could I not?”. And that is what you have to love about Patrick Wolf. For better or worse, he is who he is, and he is always true to himself. And besides, in nearly all cases, this is for better rather than for worse.

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3 Responses to “Gig Review: Patrick Wolf @ Prince Bandroom, 14th December”

  1. Hey thanks for the awesome review. I stupidly missed the show and now regret it! From this i gathered it was probably a special show – hopefully he’ll bring the atmosphere back when he tours with The Conqueror!

  2. Bloody amazing show. So fortunate to have been a part of it. Hope you had fun at Healesville Patrick =].

  3. Incredible incredible incredible show… three days after and I’m still on a complete high from it.
    The only thing that upsets me is that the shows Im ging to for the rest of the summer will be nothing compared to this.

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