Wolf Parade, Joensuu 1685
Matt Dive 21/05/2010
Despite being a fan of Wolf Parade since their critically-lauded debut album Apologies to the Queens Mary this is my first time witnessing them live and, though it could just as easily be attributed sweltering heat trapped beneath the Club Academy's low ceiling, I'm feeling palpably anxious.
Captained by the dual, independent songwriting talents of guitarist Dan Boeckner and keyboard-hero Spencer Krug they've always been a discordant force on record (to sweepingly generalise: Dan's songs: short, fast, anthemic. Spencer's: complex, theatrical, odd) but the albums they made last year with their respective side projects (Boeckner's Handsome Furs and Krug's Sunset Rubdown) suggest that, stylistically at least, they're currently operating at opposite ends of the indie spectrum. My lingering fear was that the Wolf Parade that turns up tonight would be one without cohesion - a splicing together of two solo artists as opposed to a fully-formed band.
About 30 seconds in to the gig this theory is not so much challenged as ceremonially executed on stage. From the first, dramatic notes and yelps of set-opener <>i>'You are a runner and I am my father's son' to the sprawling, unhinged 'Kissing the beehive', Wolf parade are in fervent mood tonight - faster, heavier and more rock'n'roll than their records or internet videos could ever have suggested. With the band tightly huddled together on stage like a ball of focused, burning energy, first-album favourites such as 'Shine a light' have never sounded so vital, it's tale of yearning, dying youth never so powerful as when the crowd stops bouncing just long enough to draw breath and scream along with its key refrain of “You know our hearts beat time out very slowly, You know our hearts beat time they're waiting for something that'll never arrive”.
Elsewhere, 'I'll believe in anything' finds Krug in mad-scientist mode, looming maniacally over his keyboard and disfiguring its typically jaunty riff in to a multi-layered electronic fuzz explosion while 'California Dreamer', liberated from its slightly muddled parent album At Mount Zoomer, is a thunderous, frantic revelation. New material from the upcoming third record Expo 86 suggests a more synth based direction for the band (although the Krug-led 'What did my lover say' oddly seems to share a guitar riff with Franz Ferdinand's 'Take me out') but the melodies and dynamics remain unmistakably Wolf Parade.
It's the older stuff, however, that really sets the pulses racing and nothing exemplifies this as much as debut album closer 'This heart's on fire'. “Sometimes we rock and roll, sometimes we stay at home” sings Boeckner over the song's bleepy intro and tonight we were never in danger of which way things were going to go. Celebratory enough on record the song is absolutely incandescent live. Drums, keyboards and guitars are hammered with fury, the crowd sing along to every last defiant word and the whole effect is just dizzyingly glorious. The over-riding message here is that Wolf Parade are back, the sum of their parts and a whole lot more and, though it may be the thick summer heat, their hearts right now appear to be truly on fire.