Patrick Wolf

The Night Safari

After several years absence, Patrick Wolf returns as singular a pop star as he's ever been, finds Luke Turner

This past Tuesday night, Patrick Wolf finished his first UK tour in years with a night at the Village Underground in London in a joyous, confident performance, at times a lot heavier and rattling than anyone familiar with his Sundark And Riverlight, his 2012 compilation of folk reworkings of his back catalogue, might have expected. Best of all was how the material from first two albums Lycanthropy and Wind In The Wires sat alongside new EP The Night Safari in their distinct sonic inventiveness – ‘The City’, ‘The Magic Position’ and ‘Accident & Emergency’ from the era of his more concerted attempts to assault the mainstream paled in comparison.

As Patrick Wolf told me in this Guardian interview, the past decade of relative silence was a personal hell, involving familial grief, bankruptcy and a battle with alcohol and drug dependency. These years of musical exile shaped the five tracks of The Night Safari EP, alongside a return to DIY self-dependency and, crucially, some of the instrumentation that made his early music so good. It veers between the gloriously dramatic ‘Dodona’, Michael Nyman via Warp records cracked electronics in ‘Acheron’, a shuffling modernist crooner in ‘Nowhere Game’ and to finish off, ‘Enter The Day’, all rolling piano and optimism.

At the Village Underground, Patrick Wolf prowled the stage in his rather fabulous self-made clothes and was by turns honest, witty, bleakly funny (“you’re all going to die… sorry, I am told I am too mean to my audience”) and filthy (‘Tristan’ introduced with an ad lib apparently about fisting), and best of all sung in the finest voice of his life. I used to always think that it would only be in another world less tainted by commerce, algorithms and laziness that Patrick Wolf could be a pop star, but I realise I was wrong. He now seems perfectly happy to do pop star as he wants to be, and for that world to be his very own.

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