Shortly before his gig at Kaserne, Basel last night, Patrick Wolf tweeted a link to a Guardian article questioning the merits of re-recording one’s own songs. ‘It’s bonkers how much I’ve been made to justify why I made this album’, he tweeted, referring to his latest release Sundark and Riverlight, a two-disc acoustic re-working of some of his most beloved songs.
Why he should have to justify its very existence is a mystery – why the heck shouldn’t he re-record his own songs? They’re his, for goodness’ sake, he can do what he wants with them – turn them into jazz hardcore neon pink electric pseudo goth-whatever while doing cartwheels if he so chooses. And anyway, many of the songs on Sundark and Riverlight are so different to the originals, reborn in other, more considered and quieter, clothing. So when the article pithily suggests ‘don’t recreate, reinvent’, well, it would seem that Mr Wolf has done exactly that. Therefore – end of conversation.
Besides, having an new album out (of new or re-worked older material, who cares) gives us an excuse to see Wolf on tour again, and that’s not an opportunity to pass up. In stark contrast to the last time I saw him, his high-energy dark electro rock/pop show with smatterings of classical and cabaret has been transformed into an evening of low-key charm and friendly banter, giving Wolf the perfect opportunity to showcase his ferocious skills with any number of instruments. The practiced ease with which Wolf attacks his violin and strums his harp is a reminder that, for all his flair for the dramatic and theatrical, he is also a supremely talented musician, with superb mastery of his chosen instruments (violin and harp especially). You get the feeling that perhaps this acoustic setting is Patrick’s ‘default’ position, his first love and his most natural state, so comfortable and at home does he seem.
Expertly accompanied by his violinist (who is rather amazing herself – wish I knew her name? Update – her name is Quinta. Thanks, Niwo!), Wolf manages to bring a fresh understanding and depth of emotion to the Sundark and Riverlight arrangements. Themes of home and belonging (‘London’, his ode to his hometown of London, ‘the middle of the world’ to him, a ‘tiny island full of annoying people’ to others’), mythology (‘Tristan’), and love (‘Together’, ’Bermondsey Street’) are dominant, and in keeping with the mood and feeling of this delightful, lovely evening.
Slightly bashful and self-effacing when he can’t quite get the words to ‘Lands End’ right (it’s been such a long time since he has played it, he says), and blaming his slowness on an ill-advised fondue he ate last night (‘not the kind of protein I’m used to’, lol – sorry, Patrick I apologise on behalf of Switzerland!), Patrick wooes and charms us with his extravagant flourishes, surprisingly deep voice, and best of all (for me at least – love that look!), when his kamikaze headband makes a welcome appearance. I had to dash off to catch the last train, so missed the last part of the ‘Lands End’ encore, but luckily some wonderful soul recorded the entire thing:
A special treat, to see Patrick in acoustic mode, and one I won’t forget in a hurry. Ah, if only nights like this went on forever…
And now, just because I can, and because I love it – listen to Patrick put Lana del Ray entirely in the shade with his sublime cover of ‘Born To Die’: