A Night of Winter with Patrick Wolf at Union Chapel
The fifteenth Patrick Wolf show yours truly has attended, this sits among the most atmospheric and whimsical. Wolf is at home in the Union Chapel, its potential for reverence feels designed for him. The stage is adorned with fabulous instruments: harp, viola, and a myriad of technologies. This is a showcase of select songs, given an airing on the longest night of the year – Wolf’s tribute to the winter solstice.
Promised a night of winter, what we are given is a tour of Wolf’s discography composed in the depths of the last season of the year – Gypsy King makes an unexpected appearance, passionate and powerful, and Teignmouth shines with beautiful strings as usual. Together is heartfelt and romantic, Damaris contributing to the inevitably pagan feel of this incredible songwriters’ catalogue. What the show lacks though is a festive edge or the mystery one expects from Wolf’s eccentric performances; there might have been a carol or a rendition of his fabulous take on Jerusalem. One feels he just isn’t the mood for Christmas.
The audience are ga-ga though; this is a room full of hardcore fans, gazing adoringly at Wolf and his band through an aggressive Hard Times and gentle, lilting Pigeon Song. The melodies lift all to the rafters tonight, the undeniably breathtaking vocals shocking, comforting and challenging. Accordion, violin and double bass add to the majesty of the sound – every song is magically different, with various instrumentals and improvisations. Wolf is focused wholly on the music tonight, as it should be, yet it means he is snappy and wandering. Chiding his band for not following his direction, he lets loose the diva within him on occasion, which makes for uncomfortable viewing.
There is a theme of love throughout tonight’s performance – Armistice and Bermondsey Street are crowd favourites, drawing us in with authoritative and dynamic vocal acrobatics. Wolf claims that tonight puts to bed many songs from the past ten years, to make way for a new phase in his life. His return to the stage at the end of the set sees The Magic Position fall a little flat, despite bringing the whole audience to their feet. The encore closes with a stunning cover of Joni Mitchell’s River; pared back and honest, Wolf ends on a high. Goodbye to this year and welcome to the next, hopefully bringing with it a new record and a step forward from pastures old.
Photo: Phil King
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Watch the video for Together here: