A near perfect concert, featuring all of the most important components: a brilliant band, an atmospheric venue, a wombat-inspired backdrop and mesmerising encore.
There’s no denying that The Wombats know how to put on a good show. The Liverpudlian trio – aka Matthew Murphy (vocals), Dan Haggis (drums) and Tord Øverland Knudsen (bassist) – have been touring up and down the UK with their new record Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life, and we joined them on their penultimate stop at the O2 Academy in Bristol for a night full of moshing, giant teddy bears and plenty a millennial sing-along.
After arriving and buying the standard ridiculously overpriced pint (£10.20 for two!), we settled in for the generous supply of support acts The Wombats had lined up. First up Bloxx, the female-fronted four piece from London, set the tone for a night filled with indie goodness, whilst also delivering some grunge. Lead singer Ophelia has a near-perfect consistency in her voice, the perfect opening to make that costly pint a bit more bearable. Following on, The Night Café brought us indie anthems to rival the main event. The fellow Liverpudlians (who released their debut EP last year) had a good group of the audience singing along to their tracks, something which can’t be said for a lot of support acts. After finishing on a high, The Night Café had all of the audience anticipating the arrival of our favourites.
Right on time, The Wombats were finally ready to bring exactly what we were waiting for. It’s worth taking the time here to mention how great the O2 Academy Bristol is as a venue, and The Wombats are the perfect band for explaining why. After positioning ourselves in the middle and in front of the stage, it was clear that we’d made the wrong decision. As the trio started to play their first song, ‘Cheetah Tongue’, we found ourselves in the centre of a mosh pit and realising that to properly enjoy the concert we needed to get ourselves out of there (Damn, I feel so old writing that). Luckily, the venue completely caters for this. As well as the crazy epicentre, there’s a less crazy bar area, stairs and a top deck to view all of the band’s glory from above. This set-up is what makes the O2 Academy in Bristol such a special venue, and one which, when The Wombats played tracks like ‘Kill The Director’ and ‘Let’s Dance To Joy Division’, made it a truly inclusive experience for every kind of fan.
Getting back into the music itself, the band produced a setlist with just the right amount of old and new to keep all satisfied. Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life, perhaps their most divisive record to date, fitted in seamlessly. The encore, which started off with ‘Turn‘, got the entire crowd pumped and rivalled its equivalent in ‘Emoticons‘ from Glitterbug. As well as the stellar setlist, the band’s ability to maintain a stage presence is unparalleled in any similar band of the past couple of years. Matthew Murphy’s chats to the audience provided some new personal anecdotes to tracks I’ve sung in my bedroom for years on end. One particular example was the revelation that ‘Pink Lemonade’ was a track written on a writers retreat to Barcelona, where Murphy became convinced his ex-girlfriend was “sleeping around with all of London”. This, accompanied by the consistently driven and motivated performance, made The Wombats’ performance incredibly enjoyable. One final thing I feel like I need to mention was the impressive animated wombat-like backdrop – who doesn’t love colourful wombats flashing across the screen as you jam out to ‘Moving To New York’?
Finishing the show with my personal favourite, ‘Greek Tragedy’, the Liverpudlians left the audience pining for more and likely hurrying home to listen to the entirety of their discography on repeat. The opening melody is enough to render me on the verge of tears and when the drums hit, we were all in it to the end. It was one of those moments from a gig that I’ll always remember, probably because of how much the song means to me and its place at the end of the setlist left me leaving the show on a high.
The Wombats are one of those bands that can only be fully appreciated through seeing them live. Their anthems, take on a completely elevated form in a live setting, in such a way that makes them one of the bonafide indie performers of our generation. Make sure to catch them on one of their many festival slots this summer, you won’t regret it.
The Wombats are currently embarking on their European tour. Get tickets here.