Live review: Chelsea Wolfe, London Heaven

Chelsea Wolfe casts a spell on London at staggering, long-awaited return…

Live review: Chelsea Wolfe, London Heaven
Nick Ruskell
Derek Bremner

It’s been more than five years since Chelsea Wolfe last performed in the UK. And that was as an opener, on tour with A Perfect Circle at the tail end of 2018. In 2020, an intended acoustic run of cathedrals and concert halls for the previous year’s stripped-back Birth Of Violence album became one of the first to get nixed as COVID rose up. It’s a long wait – long enough to make an album that stands on the podium of her finest work in She Reaches Out To She Reaches Out To She – but the rarity only makes this return in all its graceful glory so much more incredible.

Even in such a large setting as Heaven, even with your options being ‘packed in’ or ‘see absolutely nothing’, even if Chelsea says very little to the audience but gormless dicks talk loudly during the quiet bits, there’s an intimacy and closeness that gently fills this grand space. With a vibe set early on by the atmospheric piano of support act Maud The Moth, it’s not so much about watching a show as being drawn into a dusky musical world of rich sound and deep, swelling emotion.

Leaning heavily into She Reaches Out…, the opening run of Whispers In The Echo Chamber’s crawling electronics, the glacial gorgeousness Everything Turns Blue, and the almost QOTSA-ish of House Of Self Undoing are even more verdant than on record, gaining extra weight thanks to the moody lights and visuals. For older tracks, the moment when The Culling moves from gentle quiet to a wall of sound is spectacular, as is the sweeping 16 Psyche. These grandstanding tidal waves of energy are but one element here, though, and Chelsea has just as engaging a command of the quiet as the loud. Equally moving, powerful and entrancing are the spacious Feral Love, House Of Metal’s delicate melodies, the dreamy lament of They’ll Clap When You’re Gone. Likewise, Chelsea’s voice traverses the peaks and troughs perfectly, from a quiet, gentle near-whisper, to imperious power, to altogether more haunting and from another world.

With She Reaches Out…, Chelsea Wolfe has made one of the best records to come out this year, creatively bold and full of realness and soul. In the flesh, these attributes only become more apparent. It’s been worth the wait. Better yet, you only have to hold on ’til autumn to see her again.

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