11/23/15 – House Of Blues

The Wombats live at the intersection of dance music and rock.

They had just finished touring Europe in support of their newest album, Glitterbug, and their first night in the U.S. had them off to a great start. Though some of their studio recordings can be dizzyingly synth-laden, their live show was packed with raucous, screeching guitars and unrelenting drums that culminated in a past-curfew jam session during the encore.

Brooklyn, by way of San Francisco-based POP ETC, started off the night with a lively set, their sound encompassing, as their name implies, pop and everything else. Highly polished for a fledgling duo, POP ETC got the audience in the mood to dance with their upbeat songs.

Entering to a procession of “Higher and Higher” from the movie-turned-TV-show “Wet Hot American Summer,” New Orleans-based Royal Teeth took the stage next. After an opening song, “Amateurs,” that felt a little too big for their size – much too happy-go-lucky, a pop punk song about summer – the group’s cover of The Knife’s “Heartbeats” re-energized the crowd. Royal Teeth really shined on “Is It Just Me,” a sensual, sexy song that showed off Nora Patterson’s vocal range.

After an agonizingly long set change, the English boys finally took the stage. There’s a sense of maturity that’s gained in The Wombats’ sound since their first album – whether that’s owed to production quality or simple growth as a band, it’s evident in their energy on stage. Their opening song, “Give Me A Try,” ventured dangerously close to sounding whiny, but frontman Matthew Murphy poured just the right amount of rawness into it that it came across as powerful.

The band played a fine mix of old songs and new, keeping the attention of the crowd throughout their hour and a half long set. The Wombats’ music, similar to the rock-informed Brit-pop of The Vaccines, appeals to fans with a sense of a shared community that comes along with it. This was evident at the show, as no one needed to feel uncomfortable at any moment–they were all there to enjoy the music that brought them together that night.

Their sound adopted the effervescent, optimistic vocals of pop, but offered the fast-paced, eardrum-bursting guitars and drums of Dan Haggis to carry it all. So when a song like “Pink Lemonade” cropped up towards the middle of the set, with more subdued instrumentation and a touch of falsetto from Murphy, there was a shift in emotion. Telling a story of how he got really drunk and convinced himself his “girlfriend was going to have furious sex with a good friend of [his],” Murphy smirked and laughed to himself. The song is about submission – having a premonition of something bad happening, and allowing it — “so go ahead,” Murphy sings. Where we saw flying leaps across the stage from bassist Tord Knudsen at the beginning of the set, now we found a side of the  Wombats more like the cuddly creatures from which their name derives.

After their set ended, the band returned for what was meant to be a three song encore. Murphy played an acoustic version of their rock ballad “Isabel,” sounding and seeming the most vulnerable he’d been all night. He even shed his leather jacket, taking away the toughness The Wombats tried to portray. Powering through “Greek Tragedy” and their most popular tune, “Let’s Dance To Joy Division,” the audience thought the show to be over. But Murphy gripped the mic and shouted, “This next one’s called ‘Yogurt Face’!” to a confused crowd. The band shredded on their respective instruments for the next five minutes, prolonging the encore to the technicians’ chagrin.

In a world of endless sonic possibilities, the Wombats stick to the basics: a simply simple, good rock show. But who said there’s anything wrong with a simple, good rock show?

 

Solid as a Rock Show: The Wombats
Pros
  • Great energy levels throughout show
  • Set was exciting, even to those unfamiliar
  • Own their instruments
Cons
  • Slower songs dragged on
  • Too long set changes
  • Openers too generic in sound
8.7Solid as a Rock Show

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