He is tall, lanky, and 25. He is as pale as I am, with a mop of pale platinum blonde hair atop his head. His smile sparkles with mischief. He chatters on in a stream of consciousness in attempts to make sure you truly and thoroughly understand the source of his inspiration for each song that he has written.
Before all other things, Patrick Wolf is a storyteller. He is a wandering minstrel singing his tales of triumph and woe to eager audiences. His voice is the perfect tool for lyrical expression. It's range seemingly limitless, going from the purest deep timbre of a grown man to the lightest most feathery and whimsical falsetto of a young boy. Through his voice, he helps paint the landscape of his tales.
I wasn't sure what to expect when I heard Patrick Wolf was doing an acoustic set at Le Poisson Rouge in Manhattan this past Wednesday night. The new album, "The Bachelor" (due out in a few weeks) is heavily electronic, and with very intricate musical arrangements. I couldn't even begin to imagine how those songs would break down. Well, it appears that the fundamental rule that "graphic design should work as well in black and white, as it does in color" applies to music too. Even stripped of all its elaborate orchestrations, Patrick Wolf has created emotive, whimsical, dark, and beautiful music. With nothing more than a piano, a violin, viola, guitar, and occasional dulcimer (and only TWO people on stage mind you) every songs musical meaning & integrity remained in tact. Truth be told, I felt some of the "stripped down" versions were more... intimate... in a way. I felt a certain personal resonance with each song, especially with it's maestro...in many ways Patrick Wolf is a kindred spirit, especially in regards to his sense of style and visual aesthetic. This relationship with the viewer is the essential component to a minstrel's work... we should feel ourselves being drawn into the tale, being seduced by the singer, whisked away into whatever corner of the universe they choose. With this incredibly beautiful and striking performance at Le Poisson Rouge, Patrick Wolf has conquered over all my other favorite musicians. I feel blessed to have seen him perform this way- and have it be my first time seeing him live.
His connectivity and interaction to the crowd was nothing like I've ever witnessed, it was like VH1's "Storytellers"... every song meant something, and Patrick was more than willing to tell you. He talked to us throughout the set, even playing coy at a few comments. These moments of relation were probably my favorites. He gets on the audiences good side by wit, grace, and charm, and then steals their hearts by playing his music. I went through emotions like water- I would find my self laughing out loud one moment, then move rapidly on to silent meditation, then shoot upward to gleeful seat-bopping, then come crashing down to shaky hysterics.
I could go on forever about this show. There were so many glorious little moments. Instead I will leave you with this suggestion: Go out and buy every album this young man has produced. Listen to each album the old school way in sequential order, with your head phones on, and see if you can withstand the inevitable draw of one the best modern musicians out there today.
Some of the songs he performed live included:
The Pigeon Song
"Tin Angel" by Joni Mitchell directly into the Magic Position
Wind in the Wires
"Happy Birthday" to his dear cousin Natalie (in the audience)