Live Review: Wolf Alice headline, Supergrass return at Pilton Party

Wolf Alice live in London on December 20th, 2018 (Sam Huddleston / Live4ever)

Wolf Alice live in London on December 20th, 2018 (Sam Huddleston / Live4ever)

The annual Pilton Party is a miniaturised Glastonbury and serves as both an epilogue to the preceding festival and a prologue for the following year.

Taking place on Worthy View (around the Other Stage area if you’re interested) it’s primarily a thank you to the local residents for putting up with the upheaval of accommodating 200,000 people. The field has recovered and it’s quite a sight to see the Pyramid Stage stripped bare.

Headliners Wolf Alice have kept a low profile for the majority of 2019, presumably to record the follow-up to the Mercury-winning album Visions Of A Life. But there are no teasers for a new album here, it’s a straight forward run through of the choice picks from their material thus far and they rattle through it in an hour.

An indie-grunge band at heart, the power of Space & Time, Yuk Foo and Bros have been given added muscle as the band have risen through the ranks, but the dream-pop of Don’t Delete The Kisses loses some of its emotional power live. There’s also the odd choice of trimming down arguably their best song, Silk, to just guitar and vocals, meaning it loses a lot of its impact in the process.

That’s not to say Wolf Alice vocals are a weakness, far from it. Ellie Rowsell has an incredible voice and range that the recordings don’t do justice to. Looking like a young Gwen Stefani, complete with high ponytail and crop top, she fully engages with the music and leaves most of the crowd engagement to bassist Theo Ellis. They are undaunted with a headline slot, which bodes well for 2020.

However, and this is meant as no slight, they’ve already been upstaged by the time they take to it, for the ‘Special Guests’ of the day are returning heroes: Supergrass are back.

Michael Eavis introduces them as ‘the best band of the 90s’, which is questionable, but there’s a strong case to be made for them as one of the best singles bands of all time, as tonight (September 6th) reminds us. They only perform tracks from their first three albums, but for a festival set that’s more than enough. The show serves as a reminder of how much we took them for granted first time round.

As Gaz Coombes frequently reminds us it’s their first gig in ten years, but you wouldn’t know it for two main reasons. Firstly, being one of the youngest bands from the Britpop generation, all the band are still under fifty and look good on it. Secondly, there is not an ounce of fat on the songs. Caught By The Fuzz is still a wonderful slice of frantic indie, Pumping On Your Stereo is pure glam and Richard III gets the adrenaline flowing as much today as it did in 1997. These are simply great rock songs that have stood the test of time.

Apart from one, of course. Gaz wryly introduces it as ‘an obscure album track’, but Alright instantly transports us back to those heady days of opportunity and hope. Over-exposure has dulled its power but as singalongs go there are few finer. Which again augurs well for next year.

Pilton Party provides the first clues about the following year’s Glastonbury line-up. Wolf Alice are likely to headline a stage and, unlikely as it is, Mr Eavis could do a lot worse than have Supergrass top the bill. They’ve got the chops (ahem), they’ve got the talent and they’ve got the songs.

‘Welcome back’ doesn’t do their return justice.

(Richard Bowes)

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