Liverpudlian Threesome Get Intimate: The Wombats @ Joiner’s Southampton

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Southampton Joiners October 17th

Coming to one of Southampton’s most intimate venues with a new album and a new sound to showcase, was a risky move for the Liberpudlian threesome. After the massive success of Tales of Girls and Boys and Marsupials, The Wombats had a sterling reputation to maintain, both as performers and as musicians, and I am pleased to say they kept it up. Well, mostly.

Intimate venues are made for acts like The Wombats. A low-key stage set up, with rudimentary lights and visuals means you cannot help but focus on the band themselves, who ambled onto the stage with an air of humility and nervousness – lead Matthew Murphy later told THE EDGE that small venues “are more nerveracking” than big shows, which certainly showed on their faces. I was beginning to expect a reserved and safe show, tentatively putting their new music out there, and then quietly fading off stage. But thankfully it appeared to be short-lived nerves as they wasted zero time messing about, launching straight into personal favourite ‘Kill the Director’ with enthusiasm and vigour that fans have come to know and love.

But if you are a person who loves The Wombats for their cheeky juvenile behaviour, and their refusal to take themselves too seriously, then you are in for a small shock come the release of the second album. The new sound they exhibited is somewhat darker and more mature than previous material, though that’s not the say they have lost any of their boyish charm – think sunny spells as opposed to apocalyptic thunder and lightening.

The crowd were suitably warmed up following their astounding opening – people were dancing and screeching left right and centre, which surprisingly continued throughout their entire showcase of new material, a feat seldom achieved by even the most established bands. People only ever want to hear the hits, and that’s a disappointing fact that many acts have to live with, but The Wombats kept the crowd engaged right the way through tracks from the new album. Highlights included ‘I Never Knew I Was a Techno Fan’, which is a great little synthy number with a beautiful riff comprising the main backing during the opening verse, which soon gives way to a rich sound for the chorus that begs you to dance, whilst ‘Anti-D’, their self confessed “one ballad” was a welcome lull in the set that was so electrifying I was light-headed.

But where The Wombats really came alive was during massive hits ‘Moving to New York’ and ‘Let’s Dance to Joy Division’, that had the crowd singing along like zombies – we were totally engaged and enthralled by Murphy & co., even without outstanding visuals or stunts that many contemporary acts rely heavily upon. It was energetic, fun, and incredibly exciting to witness the new direction The Wombats appear to be taking for the very first time.

My only criticism, and it is a very minor one, was that the sound was a little bizarre at times, which I later discovered came from minor technical difficulties – sometimes, particularly at the beginning of the set, you had a hard job to hear Murhpy’s vocals, upon which The Wombats sound pivots and relies. However, it was sorted pretty sharpish, and the rest of the set was outstanding!

It really was a fantastic night – they were clearly thrilled to be performing again, which came across throughout the show, which was the most fun I have had in a very long time. Exceptional!

9/10

Good: Top notch crowd interaction, lots of synth and energy!

Bad: Very minor vocal issues that were fixed pretty quickly.

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