Performing in front of a crowd mostly of devoted fans, the English trio mixed in a couple of tracks from their upcoming album Glitterbug along with old favorites that fans knew all the words to.
To describe The Wombats’ sound as simplistically as possible — imagine Robert Smith of The Cure had fronted a pop-ska band. Lead singer and guitarist Matthew Murphy’s vocal style so closely mirrors Smith’s it is uncanny. There’s a much more consistently upbeat vibe to The Wombats than there really ever was to The Cure.
Bassist Tord Øverland Knudsen was a whirling dervish, bouncing from one side of the small Bootleg stage to the other like a pinball. That energy rubbed off instantly on the crowd, who appreciated the charisma and reciprocated it tenfold.
Leading off their set with the catchy “Your Body is a Weapon,” The Wombats cranked it to 11 and never turned back. Along with the lead single “Greek Tragedy” off their upcoming album, they played new songs “Give Me a Try” and “The English Summer,” to which Murphy noted for those that didn’t know, an English summer doesn’t exist.
Nearly every song was filled with hooks, and as someone previously not too familiar with their catalog, I went home with many of the choruses stuck in my head. In “Techno Fan,” Murphy and his comrades shouted “Shut up and move with me, move with me” almost as though they were instructions — to which the crowd gladly followed.
“This is no Bridget Jones, this is no Bridget, Bridget!” shouted Murphy and the sold-out crowd during “Kill The Director.” Knudsen and drummer Dan Haggis were always on point with their backup vocals, which in this song included a sort-of “weee-ooo, weee-ooo!”
“1996” and “Let’s Dance to Joy Division” were two of the other standout tracks of the night. For the latter, it had me and our photographer Wes Marsala wondering how many in the crowd were that familiar with Joy Division given their youth.
In between songs, the band maintained a good sense of humor. There was one especially enthusiastic fan that kept belting out an interesting show of gratitude. The band asked for everyone to be quiet and let that guy “who knows who he is” let out another ridiculous yell, to which he obliged.
For a band only about to release their third full-length album, The Wombats have a good number of quality songs under their belt — and they’ve mastered the live performance aspect of all of them. It makes them worth checking out when they return to SoCal at The Fonda Theatre on May 12 and The Observatory on May 15.
Opener Ivy Levan blends the best of ’90s dance music with alt-rock in a way you wouldn’t expect — and it works. She’s got quite a vocal range and utilizes it extremely well while singing a variety of songs that are loads different than what you come across on the radio. Levan even had a solid vocal support during her set, which featured songs like “Money” and her latest single “Biscuit.”
Words: Mark E. Ortega
Photography: Wes Marsala
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