Wolf at the door of Cornish venue
PLAYING a concert in Cornwall on Sunday is a bittersweet pleasure for the extraordinarily talented Patrick Wolf.
The colourful singer-songwriter – whose lyrical work shares common ground with the foreboding, windswept but utterly beguiling worlds of Kate Bush and Antony And The Johnsons – plays the fittingly grand Ritz, Penzance, on Sunday.
"I've never played a show in Cornwall, even though I've been asking management and agents for many, many years. Perhaps now I'm celebrating ten years of playing music, they're finally listening to my demands."
Speaking from Dublin, while touring his new "acoustic" album Sundark And Riverlight, Patrick told me: "I'm not sure it's a good thing actually – coming to Cornwall for a 'showbiz' event is blowing my cover really.
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"It's a place I come to find solace, and often I don't even come down with friends or anyone. Penzance is the right place to play as it's the area I always return to almost on a yearly basis."
One of Patrick's most celebrated albums, 2005's Wind In The Wires, was written in Hayle and has the rugged romanticism of Cornwall flowing through its grooves. Indeed he first got to know the area while enjoying a "passionate love affair" with someone whose sister lived there.
"A lot of the planning for this album was done while living in a chalet in Gwithian in January last year. I flew straight from New York, arrived in Penzance and caught the bus to Gwithian. I did a lot of walking around St Ives Bay listening again to music by the likes of Johnny Cash and Joni Mitchell and enjoying the rain and wind. I even visited Land's End which I'd written about years ago but never been to before."
Still only 29, Patrick's story is an amazing one. At the age of 12 he would swagger past the doormen at The Garage in Islington, all fur coat and attitude.
Coached in classical music from an early age, at 14 he turned his back on that world and joined the music collective Minty, formed by infamous performance artist and model Leigh Bowery.
As well as loving the baroque feel of acts like His Name Is Alive, Shirley Collins and Leonard Cohen, Patrick was also listening to the new dance grind of Atari Teenage Riot. Throughout his career he has melded the two to produce a fascinating technological folk music.
First up was the celebrated Lycanthropy in 2003, followed by Wind In The Wires, a more pop feel on 2007's The Magic Position and 2009's The Bachelor and, more recently, Lupercalia.
All of these albums are cherrypicked on Sundark And Riverlight and songs like The Libertine and Hard Times totally reinvented.
Working with a string quartet, woodwind and even a Bosendorfer Grand piano personally loaned by Peter Gabriel, Patrick has fashioned perhaps his most immediate and cohesive album yet.
"Yes, the most accessible but least commercial," he jokes. "I think the press are fed up with me now. I've been around for ten years and I'm not the hot new thing, and I don't fit into this new Simon Cowell world.
"But I'm quite happy in my position in the avant garde now and if I died tomorrow I'd be proud of what I've achieved, though I think my best work is to come.
"My mission statement at the beginning was: if you're going to stick around with my music, be prepared for lots of different faces and sounds. It's not a new concept; think of Bowie, Kate Bush or PJ Harvey. I can't wait to get into my 30s and 40s to see what music I'm making I'm making."
So what can we expect at the Penzance gig?
"I found an amazing accordionist who has arranged all the string and woodwind parts for accordion, there is also a violin and fiddle player and I'll be on piano. It's very, very folk and goes very much back to the singer-songwriter origins."
He added: "I want the Hayle massive to come and see the songs that were written there." Is there a Hayle massive? "There better be."
Don't miss this gig – we don't get artists of Patrick Wolf's calibre in Cornwall very often. Make sure you get there early to catch support act Abi Wade, a Brighton-based cellist/percussionist/singer who has been compared to the likes of Joanna Newsom and Regina Spektor.
Tickets are £14 and doors open at 7pm at The Ritz, Queen Street, Penzance, on Sunday. To book head to www.wegottickets.com/event/185536