For a couple of months after seeing The Wombats in May, there was a bit of an empty feeling in my life; a void that couldn’t be filled no matter how many times I stalked their Facebook, watched their music videos or listened to their two albums and numerous B sides. However, on July 26th at 7 in the morning this post concert slump was finally broken. It was announced that The Wombats were returning to Australian shores that October for their biggest shows to date!
Back for the third time in 12 months to their ‘second home’, it was noticeable how much the band had changed, not to mention how far they’d come just in the space of a year. From a modest spot on the bill at Parklife 2010, to a headlining spot at regional festival Groovin The Moo and subsequent sideshows in smaller venues earlier this year, The Wombats out did themselves and announced their own shows all around the country, in their biggest venues yet.
The Melbourne leg of the Ron Hobably & Brett Ballard proudly Present This Modern World Tour arrived at Festival Hall on a classic cold and wet Melbourne day. The soaking rains may of put a dampener on all of the dedicated fans waiting outside the doors for hours, but it certainly didn’t dampen their spirits. There was much excitement between the small group who had been waiting for hours, but when soundcheck started, the reality of the band being so close hit many fans and the excitement only grew from there. The rains eased eventually and it became dry enough for the early birds to not have to huddle near the door under the very limited shelter there was. That made for a slightly more pleasant two hour wait until the doors finally opened. 7pm rolled around and left many fans anxiously waiting for the doors to open. The tension of the waiting crowd grew with every minute until the doors of Festival Hall at last swung open, 6 minutes late. However, to all of the anxiously excited fans who had been waiting there for hours, that 6 minutes felt like a lifetime.
It was clear that this particular gig was sold out. Even at quarter past 7 most of the seating surrounding the stage was full and there were rows upon rows of cross legged fans filling the floor all along the barrier. 15 minutes later at 7.30 all of those fans sprung up eagerly to try and secure a good vantage point for the concert as Owl Eyes kicked off the night. Breezing through many songs of her own including fan favourite Raiders and a spirited cover of Pumped Up Kicks by Foster The People, Brooke Addamo ignited the crowd and made them move. In the space of a set, Owl Eyes and her relaxed yet commanding stage presence turned to mosh pit from placid to bustling.
Next on stage to continue warming up the crowd was the continuously reforming band Faker, back for another shot at the Australian music industry. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the greatest view for their set, being wedged between 3 random girls, a large group of boys and one excessively tall person made for an interesting experience of hearing what was going on, but not seeing. It took a while for the boys from Faker to really find their groove, but once they did after their shaky start they injected much energy and enthusiasm into the already raring crowd. Old favorites such as Hurricane and This Heart Attack encouraged the crowd to dance and sing along and they did just that. By the time Faker left the stage the audience was amped up and ready for they had been waiting for, the main event, The Wombats.
Finally the time came for The Wombats to come on stage. The lights dimmed and then Murph, Dan and Tord slowly made their way out onto the stage to thundering cheers and applause. Kicking off with the leading track on second album This Modern Glitch, Our Perfect Disease the band hinted at what was yet to come… Vibrating synths, thumping bass lines and a whole lot of zest. Following on from an explosive start, The Wombats launched in Kill The Director second much to the delight of the crowd, who were more than happy to join in. Lead singer Matthew Murphy left the vocals to the crowd in part of the song urging them to finish the infectious line ‘This is no… Bridget Jones!‘
Their setlist was a dream for any fan, showcasing some old favourites, Patricia The Stripper, Moving To New York and My First Wedding; as well as some of their newest material like, Girls/Fast Cars and the much loved Jump Into The Fog. The band kept the banter between themselves and the crowd high by singling out fans in the audience, trialling out different accents, telling the crowd to ‘lost their inhibitions’ to Techno fan or grind to Little Miss Pipedream and enlightening the crowd with a story of another time they had been in Melbourne, which resulted in drummer Daniel Haggis ‘sleeping in the hallway in his boxers’. To start 1996, Murphy asked various questions to a massive and enthusiastic crowd. ‘Was anyone here born in 1996?’ received a large cheer from the teenage majority of the crowd and a collective groan from the older minority at the concert. Murphy then continued on, asking if anyone was a donkey in 1996, or still is a donkey to deafening laughter and cheering. After a big build up, The Wombats finally started 1996. It’s amazing beats and impact on the crowd ensured it became a highlight of the night.
Bassist Tord Øverland Knudsen was a standout on stage, thrilling the crowd as he ran and jumped around. It was almost as if he never ran out of energy. In between singing back up vocals and various on stage antics, Tord also introduced the band’s self confessed ‘old and pretty ridiculous’ track Backfire At The Disco by counting back furiously in Norwegian.
Finishing off their set with one of their biggest songs, Tokyo (Vampires & Wolves), the band unleashed whatever they had left to make it unforgettable. Lasers washed over the animated crowd as they danced and sung to the catchy chorus. But The Wombats weren’t going to leave it at that. Minutes after walking off stage to the cheers of a couple-thousand strong adoring crowd, the boys were back for their encore.
The powerful Anti D (accompanied by an amazing visual display of a blinking eye) brought many members of the crowd to tears as the raw emotion of the song chronicling Matthew Murphy’s battle with depression soaked through them. After a huge opening to their encore, The band came out strongly with a popular track of their second album, Walking Disasters which had the crowd singing along to it’s catchy lines such as ‘You be my calm, i’ll be you pneumatic drill’ and ‘You and I are just walking disasters.‘
To finish off an incredible evening The Wombats brought out one of their finest and most popular songs, Let’s Dance to Joy Division. Once more the audience got the chance to go absolutely crazy and make the most of the band’s impressive talent and energetic music. The outro to Let’s Dance to Joy Division quickly became another spectacle all in itself, Murph donned a panda mask and the boys swapped genres to heavy metal to perform a little something they had named The Melbourne Facemelter, sending off the evening in style.
Leaving the stage for the second time to rapturous applause, screaming and cheering it was obvious that The Wombats had conquered Melbourne for the second time in a year. It was a faultless performance that fans young and old (mostly young) had loved and yearned to see again.
Now the waiting game begins again, until March rolls around and The Wombats are once more back on Australian shores. Who could blame them for coming back so often though? With the fan base they have in Australia, wouldn’t you?