You know you’re getting older when you’re excited about a concert ending by 10 o’clock. This may have been the first thing that stood out to me about the Blue Weekend Tour with Wolf Alice and Charlie Hickey when I saw it in the basement of Indianapolis’ Old National Centre a couple of weeks ago, but don’t let the early start and finish times fool you. There was still lots of fun to be had on this Tuesday night, even if it was different from the last time I saw them play this very room six years prior (almost to the date).
While I did experience a few déjà vu moments that evening, one aspect markedly different was the pop rockers’ opening act. This time around saw Wolf Alice’s support come from Los Angeles-based indie pop singer Charlie Hickey, a stark contrast from the raucous UK punk duo Slaves who opened up for them the last time around. Instead, Hickey’s soft-spoken nature and cheeky comments were the driving force at center stage. His minimal yet tight band of three brought the vibes, touching on many of the tunes from his 2021 debut EP Count The Stairs, including the simplistic yet attention-grabbing set opener “No Good At Lying” and the subtly groovy “Ten Feet Tall.”
Hickey is a childhood friend of Phoebe Bridgers and the newest signee to her Dead Oceans label imprint Saddest Factory, so it’s no surprise that a few of his songs channeled Bridgers’ vibes, including on EP cut “Seeing Things.” All throughout Hickey’s set, there was this sort of ethereal nature to it, which was especially the case when his drummer briefly left the stage for “Notre Dame” before coming back on for the set’s closer. Hickey and company performed two songs from his forthcoming full-length debut, including the echo-y single “Dandelions,” released that very night just a few hours later, in addition to the album’s title track “Nervous At Night,” which served as the band’s final number up on stage. It was a brief yet cool performance which prefaced Wolf Alice rather well.
By the time Wolf Alice hit the stage, it was right around 8:30, which felt early for a headliner, but again, I was certainly not going to complain. They played through the majority of Blue Weekend, their newest full-length which, like Hickey’s debut EP, also released last summer. In fact, after doing a little digging I later found out that both albums actually came out on the same day in June of last year. The London-based quartet, joined by a fifth member to help round out their sound, kicked off their set with a roaring rendition of the album’s second single “Smile” and never looked back. The alternative rockers led by powerhouse frontwoman Ellie Rowsell played a mix bang of songs from each of their three full-length albums, obviously showcasing their most recent effort, while still ensuring to play several cuts from both their 2015 debut and 2017’s Visions of a Life.
Although the band rocked the Deluxe room the last time I saw them six years ago, it felt like they had really leveled up since then. I remembered the loud rock sound which many of their most popular songs embody, but I did not recall how varied they sounded. There was this stellar control to Rowsell’s voice that allowed for frequent dynamic contrasts, sometimes even within the same song, as was the case all throughout their set but specifically on “Delicious Things” and “Lipstick on the Glass.” I’m sure this was probably the case the last time I saw them too, but there’s no way it was this extreme because if it had been, I feel like I definitely would have remembered.
Either way, it seems as if we were dealing with an improved, refined version of Wolf Alice. Don’t get me wrong, there were still moments of raw intensity interspersed throughout their set (“Play the Greatest Hits”), but it appears to me that they have found the perfect balance and leveraged that for their own benefit, resulting in a better-rounded sound overall. One thing I would have loved to see was “No Hard Feelings” with that guitar riff as it’s played on Blue Weekend, but Rowsell decided to instead use this moment near the end of their set as the perfect opportunity for the majority of the band to take a breather, even if it was a relatively brief one. They capped off the evening with a two-song encore, before leaving the stage for good by 9:45. While it may have been an early exit, the five found a way to pack in a full 17-track set before then, and as a result, no one in the audience walked away afterwards wondering if they’d gotten their money’s worth.