Show Review: The Wombats with The Tender Box and Wild Party at The Rickshaw, 6/3/11

by Marie Carney on June 5, 2011

The Wombats bring the energy

The Wombats’ new album This Modern Glitchhas quickly become my favorite of the year, overtaking all the others on my iPod until it spent two weeks as the only thing I listen to.  So on a Friday night after a long week I had high hopes that this would be the perfect night. 

I got there relatively early, but still was greeted with a long line.  Maybe next time I’ll remember that Popscene shows = line, but once I got inside the crowd was surprisingly sparse and I made it up next to the side of the stage easily.  The first hour was Aaron Axelsen DJ-ing, mostly remixes.  I didn’t really see anyone dancing at that point, just patiently waiting for the bands to go on.  Though that’s been my experience at pretty much any Popscene show.

The first band up, Wild Party, had the perfect sound to open for a band like The Wombats.  They played good brit-pop friendly dancy rock and roll.  The band was a lot of fun and seemed like they enjoyed themselves on stage.  The singer had an excellent stage presence, even if his voice couldn’t quite live up to the presentation.  All the other musicians were spot on, the drummer in particular kept the energy high and the audience bouncing. 

Wild Party

After another break with a DJ set from Aaron Axelsen The Tender Box came on stage.  This point in the evening is when the crowd started to really pack around the stage, especially with a big group of fans of the next band The Tender Box making their presence noisily known.  The Tender Box were another high energy band well suited for the bill.  The crowd, helped along by the overly enthusiastic fans, danced around a little more.  For the last song the band invited people on stage to dance, which the lone security guard wasn’t exactly happy about, but they were polite and disappeared back into the crowd as soon as the song was over.

The Tender Box

So the crowd should have been sufficiently warmed up and primed to see The Wombats, but somehow it just didn’t feel that way up front.  Maybe it was a delay in them getting on stage which, from my vantage point at the side, seemed to be because the tour manager didn’t want the band to come out until security pushed the crowd further away from the steps up to the stage.  I could be wrong, but this was the beginning of an evening full of distracting prima-donna-esque behavior.  I’ve been to a lot of show at the Rickshaw stop, and seen bigger bands there (members and popularity) but I have never seen a display like this.  The tour manager spent the whole show using a flashlight to signal the sound person and speaking instructions in to a microphone.  The Wombats are a great band, but there are only three of them and it was distracting, irritating and pompous.  It’s really hard to loose yourself and enjoy a show when someone on stage (or more precisely the raised step next to it) is so anxious and critical. In his defense, the sound did sound excellent, almost matching the recorded sound and mix from the albums.

For their part, The Wombats themselves delivered a tight good sounding show.  Bassist Tord Overland-Knudsen was especially full of energy, bouncing around the stage and giving the performance all he had while never missing a note.  Drummer Dan Haggis gave it a lot of energy too.  It was a spectacular display from a great rhythm section and made all the difference, keeping the dance element to The Wombats music sharp.  For his part, singer/guitarist/keyboardist Matthew Murphy hit all his points, though with a less energetic performance than his band-mates.  Though in any other band he would have seemed highly energetic, it was just hard to beat the other two members constant energy.  There were a few instrumental portions where all three members did go crazy together, and those moments were fun and frantic and what I was there for.

Two thirds of the way through the set I had enough pictures and made my best choice of the evening: went to the back, far away from the overly intense tour manager.  Here I could watch the crowd bounce around and just see the tops of the band member’s heads as they bobbed around the stage.  By the time they ended the encore with “Let’s Dance to Joy Division” I felt more relaxed and able to enjoy myself.  It’s just too bad it took that long to get there.

Setlist:

Our Perfect Disease
Kill the Director
Party in a Forest (Where’s Laura?)
Jump Into the Fog
Here Comes the Anxiety
Techno Fan
Shumacher the Champagne
Backfire at the Disco
1996
Moving to New York
My First Wedding
Tokyo (Vampires and Wolves)

Encore:

Anti-D
Let’s Dance to Joy Division

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