Live Review: Wolf Alice / Bria – Bowery Ballroom, New York City 12.11.2021

It had been way too long. The door leading to the downstairs bar at the Bowery Ballroom was waiting like a time portal back to life before March 2020. So many shows, such a part of my life for so many years – and we were back, just like that. Before I could start weeping, I grabbed drafts at the bar for my friend Phil and I. He had been impressed by Wolf Alice’s performance at the Governors Ball festival in New York in 2018 and I was tagging along since he had an extra ticket. I soon realized that it was the hottest ticket in town that Friday night.

Bria took the stage at 9PM with her two-piece band, which included guitarist/collaborator Duncan Hay Jennings and singer Jaime McCuaig. Seattle’s SubPop label recently released their debut EP, called Cuntry Covers, Vol. 1 (not a mistype). As no typical country artist is signed to SubPop – Bria and Duncan are also regular members of Orville Peck’s band. I saw them give a killer performance with Peck at the Shaky Knees Festival in Atlanta, Georgia this October. 

Bria Salmena brought her strong vocals and sultry style to some originals and long-time favorites during the opening set. The soaring 1960s pop hit “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” by The Walker Brothers was a standout cover, showcasing her powerful voice.

Bria – Credit: Deb Johnsen

Wolf Alice hit the stage with nothing less than pure adrenaline. Bassist Theo Ellis had no problem getting the sold-out crowd totally and unapologetically revved up from the get-go. Hovering over the edge of the stage with a broad grin and bright pink cuffs extending from his wrists. If you’d missed live music – you were back for the ride. Singer Ellie Rowsell was perfectly mod in black knee-high boots and a man-tailored jacket, ready to deliver the rhythm guitar attack of “Smile” from their latest album, Blue Weekend.

The dreamy chorus of “Delicious Things” was met with a full audience sing-along, as was “Safe From Heartbreak (If You Never Fall in Love)”and early fan fav “Bros”. Rowsell’s sweet nothings vocals got switched on as the band transformed into a hardcore force for “Giant Peach” and “Play the Greatest Hits”.  Those were some of my favorite moments – watching Wolf Alice seamlessly transition from a subtle indie pop group to a full-on killer rock band. Not many can pull that off.

As they left the stage to the echoes of the soaring guitar from “Moaning Lisa Smile”, the pulsing, sweaty crowd wasn’t about to let the energy die down. Wolf Alice didn’t disappoint, returning with a fierce version of the poppy “Don’t Delete the Kisses”. 

As someone who wasn’t that familiar with their music, I have to say that I was truly impressed by Wolf Alice. It was great to see a fun and spirited group of musicians turn on an adoring crowd…once again.

All Photos: Deb Johnsen

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