It's been a busy year for Patrick Wolf. He, supported at times by his band, has sprinkled glitter over a calendar littered with summer festival slots, including one triumphant Glastonbury performance, a (very) brief supporting role with Mika, a duet with Charlotte Church, an inspiring trip to America, a number of magazine interviews and a string of slightly more subdued UK tour dates.
With all this behind him, two evenings at the Shepherds Bush Empire mark the climax of his musical career so far, his "grand finale" before he embarks on a quest for aural experimentation, releases a new album and has a (doubtless well-deserved) rest.
On this evening, he proved his worth not only as a songwriter and musician but also as a showman. With Wolf, the aesthetic is intrinsic to his act, with three costume changes culminating in a Gareth Pugh/ meringue-type mass of ribbons and tights.
In the first half of the show, he played a number of raw, broken-down and emotionally charged songs on ukulele, piano and violin, accompanied by a lone violinist and bassist. These were mainly from his first two albums, Lycanthropy and Wind in the Wires, and a few from the new record, including a stunning protest song, "Hard Times", inspired by the recent American tour.
On stage, Wolf is hard to classify. Prowling around like his namesake, he is reminiscent of Bowie at his most androgynous and provocative, a unique, slightly mysterious personality, though sometimes he seems more like a charming eccentric you could take home to meet your mother. However he chooses to portray himself, he is one of those few performers who are genuinely fascinating to watch.
The second half of the show was a festive snowstorm of confetti and elaborate sets. The songs were mostly from the more upbeat The Magic Position, given extra power (something that is occasionally lacking on the record) by a live band.
During a blistering "Tristan", Wolf led his way through what was doubtless his crowd, resembling a new romantic Pied Piper, while later in the set he jumped from the stage to the top of a speaker to hang from an air vent, much to the horror of the security posse attempting to tether him back to the stage.
The evening was equally memorable for its collaborations. At one point, Wolf was accompanied by the stunningly talented Final Fantasy violinist Owen Pallett, with whom he played some of the most haunting numbers of the set.
Whichever way the critical and popular tide turns with regard to Wolf, and even if his highest-charting singles both got only to No 69 in the UK charts, there is no doubt that he means a great deal to his fans. I have never seen a queue quite like the one snaking its way around the block near Shepherds Bush Empire. In the freezing December air, it puzzled even the usual occupants of the grey west London street. Straight out of the Boombox and Circus generations, the boys as lavishly dressed as the girls, they gave off an enormous sense of wanting to have fun something lacking in the fans of the usual "four boys and guitars" bands that have clogged up the charts in more recent years.
'Independent' charity auction
The reviewer, Hugh Woodward, is an 18-year-old student at Central St Martins, London. His father Giles made the winning bid in the 2006 Independent charity auction to review a gig of his choice. Hugh won the family battle to review Patrick WolfReuse content