In the middle of this gala year for Britain, a small personal jubilee is under way for Patrick Wolf. The singer-songwriter is marking a 10- year, five-album stint in the music business that may not have produced any hits but has made him enough of a cult concern to pack out this prestigious theatre before a lengthy world tour.
The venue made it a particularly personal show for him, two minutes one way from his Southwark home for the past five years, two minutes the other way from St Thomas’ Hospital, the place of his birth. Then there were all the songs about London, from Bermondsey Street to the closing Pigeon Song and even one simply called London, with Big Ben’s chimes played on the grand piano.
Always a musician with too many ideas to sit still, flitting from folk to electronica on past works, with his next collection he has found a sound that suits, reworking past favourites for strings and other acoustic instruments. With a string section here the music was rich and warm, though he never settled, moving from ukulele to harp and violin and playing the piano side-on as though anxious to leap to the next thing.
A nervy performer, he struggled with complex outfits that made him look like a young prince on Game of Thrones and frequently had to restart songs, though his charming reactions and the gleeful audience response suggested that these are essential parts of the entertainment.
The serious moments, however, such as Together’s soaring chorus and the exquisite harp and piano of Teignmouth, indicated that whenever Wolf is ready to settle down, here is a sound he could stick with.