Patrick Wolf, Koko, London

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The Independent Culture

The last night of a tour is often a special thing, and Patrick Wolf, dressed like Lord Byron at the height of his hedonism, is clearly enjoying himself. Singing his opening notes off-stage, Wolf's almost mythological reputation among fans is amplified, and the excitement of the crowd is tangible before he emerges. Afterwards, it's overrunning.

However, what's apparent during the proceeding 17 songs is that while his more fervent disciples may view him in godlike regard, the man himself is happiest as a performer, rather than an icon. This trait, an increasingly rare commodity amongst musicians, is what enables Wolf to draw the crowd in: his witty, affable self-deprecation is engaging, like a conversation with an old friend.

Although bearing the physical clichés of an introvert – pallid complexion, individualistic dress sense, rakish thinness – Wolf is a born performer, whether at one of his many instruments or as a true frontman. His wide-ranging tenor vocals and sometimes beautiful lyrics can be either intimate or forceful; the earnest intro to '"House" and percussive chorus of "Accident & Emergency" showcase these twin specialities, although the brilliance of Wolf's voice can get lost when trying to tread the ground between tender and triumphant.

Wolf's set, however, is deftly balanced, able to mix the more personal ballads of "Godrevy Point" and "Slow Motion" with electro-pop crowd-pleasers like "The Magic Position" without breaking stride or uncomfortably changing gears at inopportune moments. Using a band which, like Wolf himself, mixes the traditional with the knowingly retro and the bitingly contemporary – sporting brass and string players as well as an effects man – the English multi-instrumentalist manages to craft a live sound in which the softer songs lilt but never drift, and the punchier numbers crackle without over-boiling.

After new single, "The City", has closed the set, the mood is ebullient: the underrated talents of Patrick Wolf have become altogether more apparent to everyone in attendance.

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