Thursday, 8 February 2007

Patrick Wolf – Live, Oxford Zodiac, Tuesday 6 February 2006

It’s easy enough to lump Patrick Wolf in with fellow travellers in the new-weird vanguard such as Antony, Joanna Newsom and Devendra Banhart. But in the live arena, what’s common to those three is a focus for the more outré aspects of their music: for Antony, the voice, often accompanied by minimal instrumentation; for Joanna, the harp; for Devendra … it’s the beard. Patrick Wolf is as much hindered as he is aided by his range of talents and ideas, and outside the studio this shows. The voice occasionally commands: a combination of Scott Walker’s gravitas and Jarvis Cocker’s directness that comes as a surprise from such a young performer. But mostly, tonight, it’s leaden, and fails to lift his complex, multi-part songs. The costumery, too, is arresting: Ziggy Stardust’s trousers, Adam Ant’s naval tailcoat. But Wolf never completely embraces the idea of an ‘in character’ performance, undercutting the theatrical presentation with his often raw, personal lyrics. This would work if the songs could carry the sentiments, but too often the performance is incoherent, and the presentation seems to serve as a necessary, but unsatisfactory distraction. On record, Wolf is, at times, a staggering talent. But live, as with most performers for whom ambition comes before achievement, a leap of faith is required. For tonight’s similarly-dressed teenage crowd, that doesn’t look like it was too difficult.


More fun:

Good review of the album at Resonator.

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