A few years ago the mere thought of an acoustic Patrick Wolf gig would have seemed quite bizarre. Wolf was a high energy performer known for the occasional diva strop, but he was mostly regarded as an excellent entertainer with incredible stage presence. However, he recently released Sundark and Riverlight (an acoustic album of past material from his five studio albums) and we’re pleased to report that the entire concept of AcousticWolf now works splendidly.
He remains a confident performer, but it’s his charm that’s remarkable. His gratitude that the audience have even turned up is sweetly endearing, as is his audience interaction – entertaining stories about nearly being arrested in a cemetery, parading around France in a wedding press and train journeys to Teignmouth bridge the gaps between songs and help endear him further to the already adoring audience. He even insists on moving a harp to allow the front row a better view.
This isn’t to say that Wolf is now a retiring wallflower. He rolls around on the floor for a dramatic performance of Tristan, showcasing perfectly what you could expect from a more usual performance of his and generally being the slightly mad entertainer that we all know on love – however, the main focus is always on the acoustics and these new arrangements of his back catalogue are quite simply staggering. We’re treated to a demonstration of a few of Wolf’s many skills; he plays a multitude of instruments to an excellent quality whilst still maintaining a strong vocal performance. When you consider that most modern pop stars can barely walk and talk at the same time you begin to realise how impressive this really is.
With this type of gig comes a very different cluster of fans to those you might find at a normal Patrick Wolf gig. The sheer variety of people here (ranging from a surprisingly high number of elderly fans to the more expected younger fans) shows Wolf’s universal appeal and frankly makes you wonder why he isn’t playing bigger venues than St. George’s. The beauty of the venue itself can’t be ignored either – it’s not the most obvious setting for a Patrick Wolf set but it suits the acoustic setting wonderfully.
The setlist itself is a fine mix. Wolf might not have a multitude of top forty hits to his name, but this makes it easier for him to perform lesser known (but no less excellent) album tracks. Darker tracks such as Hard Times and Vulture are given a new depth in the simpler arrangement, but our overall highlight would have to be The Magic Position – rarely does a track comes close to being bettered when stripped back like this, but these strings are a thing of beauty. The encore of The City – the track that introduced us to Wolf in the first place – was equally powerful.
With this tour and stripped-back album Wolf has really shown himself to be an artist with formidable staying power and a fantastic range of talents. His songs are three-minute slices of beauty and frankly it’s a travesty that he hasn’t yet had a hit single. We absolutely love him and we hope you do too.