"I feel blind to my future, blind to my fate," Patrick Wolf sang Wednesday night at New York City club Le Poisson Rouge. The lyric is from "The Messenger," a song from the avant-garde popster's June release The Bachelor -- and while he's certainly not a psychic, the lyrics sum up his life of late.After announcing his retirement, subsequently refuting it, then retreating to his parents' house in Sussex, England, to blow off steam, the ever fickle musician is back with a new album -- and all the libertine vigor he's known for. (See a photo gallery of the show here!)
Ever the exhibitionist, he took the stage in black lederhosen with a ruffled neck and knee-high argyle socks, and debuted 10 new songs. The show was a special one-off "acoustic" gig for Wolf and Victoria, his violin accompaniment, who will tour the U.S. later this year with a six-piece band. Fans sat around dinner tables, seated just feet from the stage, giving the 800-person venue a more intimate feel.
The new songs, though stripped down from the synth-laden album versions, were typically Wolf -- a fusion of jazz, chamber pop, folk, and poetry. Wolf, who began playing piano and violin at 11, plucked a violin on an unnamed song, which, he explained, was about a Medieval English woman who commits suicide after her lover leaves her.
On "The Bachelor," he played honky-tonk piano chords and sang about heartbreak and loneliness. The song, he said, was influenced by an old Appalachian poem called "Turtle Dove."
The most notable departure: Electric guitar. "All the kids were playing guitar at 16 and I was on violin," Wolf confessed. "So I thought I'd try something new." On "Hard Times," he shredded simple power chords and sang "revo- revo- revolution."
Before "Blackdown," he explained the song's lyrical homage to his family. "They're so important and it's [the song] about coming home after touring and walking with my parents in Sussex."
Wolf played old songs, too. He strummed the dulcimer ("it's the coolest instrument") on "Land's End," picked a ukulele on "Wind in the Wires," and got the crowd going with his rendition of "Magic Position," the title track from his breakout 2007 album. Wolf was ebullient and chatty, and his fans love him. "Take off your shirt!" shouted a couple of frou-frou boys in the back sipping whiskey and gingers. Eventually, these groupies' love got so out of control that they were escorted out.
The 90-minute show capped with Wolf running back onstage for an encore, bowing, and playing the one-two combo of new tracks "Vulture" and "The Sun is Often Out," then engaging the crowd in some typical Wolf banter: "Do you know where to find a good line-dancing coach?"