Celebrating his tenth anniversary
Patrick Wolf - Live At The Old Vic, London

Last time we saw Patrick Wolf perform, he was perched in the corner of a charity shop in Dalston as part of the Oxjam series of gigs. It was about as intimate as gigs come. Last night’s show at The Old Vic theatre took intimacy and put a whole new spin on it. Kicking off his world tour, and celebrating his tenth musical anniversary, Patrick donned a cloak and headdress, and invited his ten-piece orchestra to put on a sell-out show so civilised they were serving champagne by the bottle. We even spied people (yes, plural) reading their Kindles during the interval.

Arriving towards the end of the support act, Abi Wade, there was no chance to sneak in unnoticed. Whispering apologies, we shuffled to our seats and sat down to catch the tail end of her show. Abi sat centre-stage, a one-woman-band armed with a cello, drum stick and tambourine. Using her cello as a drum she tapped out quirky rhythms while singing and playing with such glamour that she seemed right at home in the Georgian surroundings.

After a brief interval the lights dimmed and silence took over the room. The orchestra then fired up and Patrick emerged from the darkness, crooning ‘Ghost Song’ into his mic. It was a goose bump moment if ever there was one, and someone nearby instantly burst into tears. Well done, Patrick.

The set list was spectacular, branching over the past ten years of Wolf’s career, and he took every chance to show off his musical ambidexterity, performing on no less than five different instruments throughout the show. Juggling so many instruments seemed to throw Patrick out of focus when, after fidgeting with a ukulele for a few minutes, he exclaimed: “Oh, I play this one on the harp!”

There were a few not so subtle cock-ups during the show, with Patrick even stopping half way through ‘Bermondsey Street’, shooting his hand into the air and yelling: “Sorry, fuck it!” and taking the time to recall the whether the lyric is “he” or “she” with the mantra: “It’s straight, then it’s gay. It’s straight, then it’s gay.” But this is all part of his charm, and there were no qualms from the crowd, just giggles and shouts of encouragement.

Hits like ‘The Magic Position’, ‘The City’ and ‘Time of my Life’ all got an energetic reception from the seated audience, but ‘The Libertine’, with its stimulating lyrics and Patrick’s raunchy dance moves, got the biggest reaction from the crowd. Writhing up against the grand piano, he glared out at the room. But as soon as the song came to an end, he went back to his bashful self, grinning: “Okay, time to settle down.” But it’s hard to settle down, sit back and relax, when you want to get up to dance and sing along at the top of your voice.

Ignoring shaking heads from the wings of the stage, the rebellious classical musician defied the curfew to play ‘Pigeon Song’ with childhood friend and violinist, Victoria Sutherland, bringing tears to her eyes as he told the whole theatre how much she means to him. It was an emotional night. Patrick finally left the stage with the parting words: “I’m gonna go now, but I want to stay forever.”

Words by Emily Anderton

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