Words by Kristofer Thomas

The best thing about a gig full of 16-year-olds is that I can easily see over everyone’s heads.

Less a concert and more a sea of poorly framed videos, Wolf Alice’s show tonight at the Academy was a strange combination of grunge without the credentials and middle class kids dressing like they’ve just walked in from a charity shop fire sale.

The crowd was born too late for Mudhoney and too early for the Strokes, stuck in a horrific limbo where Royal Blood are seen as dangerous, and rolling the ankles up way too high on your jeans is a popular style choice. Opening act Bloody Knees have the musical chops to go far, but seem too busy worshipping the ghost of Cobain to do anything about it, whilst the higher billed Swim Deep drag themselves through a scattered performance, and frontman Austin Williams does the least punk Johnny Rotten impression to grace Manchester in a good decade.

Wolf Alice was the only original note of the night – a genuinely rousing mix of meaty power chords and blast-beat drumming. It may simply be an emulation of something that has been done many times before – loud-quiet-loud dynamics and the rock-meets-radio song structures – but Wolf Alice have been toiling away on the circuit for a while now and deserve every bit of success that comes their way.

It’s all very well produced and tightly performed, but there remains a sneaking feeling that everyone involved could do far better if they weren’t just rehashing old sounds or ideas. There’s certainly the presence of talent here, but headliners and support acts alike seem reluctant to create their own signature, content instead with hero-worship and channelling the spirits of bygone movements.

The audience love it though, so who am I to tell them otherwise? They mosh, dance and crowd-surf their way through a surprisingly lengthy performance, and when the cold night air spills in through the open doors, nothing but wide-eyed glee emerges, briefly cancelling out my relentless cynicism.

The gig took place on Thursday 10th March 2016 at Academy 1.

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