The Wombats sold out their show at St Kilda’s Palais Theatre in a matter of mere minutes earlier this year, with an overwhelming demand for tickets resulting in an upgrade to a more sizeable venue: Margaret Court Arena. If that doesn’t demonstrate the amount of love this city has for the trio out of Liverpool, then perhaps the sheer aura of exhilaration radiating from the crowd as they anticipate the hour and a half long set to does.
Fellow Liverpudlians Circa Waves have kept the stage more than warm; they might be the support act, but they make the stage their own, occupying every bit of space afforded to them for their half hour set. Having opened with Young Chasers (the song of the same title as their debut LP), Circa Waves play a tight set proving to be a refreshingly dynamic act live and a top notch choice of support act. Fossils, Stuck In My Teeth and Get Away are highlights, but it was Good For Me and My Love proved to be the stand outs of the set. A set which, judging by the cries of “no!” Circa Waves they said their farewell and launched into the downright raucous T Shirt Weather, could have been extended.
The intermission before the main act take the stage is brief and the crowd still buzzing from the previous set when The Wombats slink on stage. Opener Body Is A Weapon should have been a great way to kick things off but felt strained due to some issues vocal issues (a result of Splendour In The Grass and previous sideshows, no doubt). Still, Dan Haggis is a powerhouse behind the kit and a sing-along ensues. Equal parts entertaining and professional, front man Matthew Murphy acknowledges that his voice is somewhat worse for wear tonight and enlists the audience in assisting him with his duties following a slightly rocky rendition of Jump Into The Fog. The Melbourne crowd is more than happy to oblige, which garners an earnest compliment on the collective singing voice from Murphy.
It is with Be Your Shadow and a static-filled 1996 that the band hit their stride, Murphy now having adjusted adeptly to the post-Splendour situation. This Is Not A Party and Techno Fan fire the already excitable crowd up further with waves of bass and synth-dripped riffs bursting from the stage.
Bassist Tord Øverland Knudsen has been silent for most of the set aside from his backing vocal duties. Instead, he has opted to allow his action to speak for him. He darts from one side of the stage to the other with a seemingly endless reserve of frenetic energy. He spurs on the crowd, ensuring that the pit looks something akin to a wonderfully turbulent sea, which only calms for Little Miss Pipedream. The track slows down the set, is complete with a harmonica solo curtesy of Haggis and sees the entire arena alight with smart phones and lighters. Murphy has dedicated the song to “anyone who has followed us from the very begging”. It seems that just about everyone present falls into that category and they’re singing back every single word.
Both Murphy and Haggis have made a point of chatting with the audience throughout the set. At one point, Haggis describes Melbourne as a home away from home for the band, which Murphy reiterates, stating that perhaps they should just move here, if not for the audience reception, then because “brunch is the best meal.”
The trio of Kill The Director, Tokyo- Vampires & Wolves and Give Me A Try together form the other major highlight of the set. With each song featuring on a different album from The Wombats’ catalogue, the reception these three get is testament to Australia’s (and indeed, Melbourne’s) love for the band. That love is evident as the band slips from the stage for a brief reprieve before their encore.
Emoticons and Let’s Dance To Joy Division make up the thudding encore, along with a surprising and wonderfully brutal rendition of Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name. Cheeky, charismatic and all together entertaining, The Wombats have a great connection with their audience here, pretty much negating any complaints from early on in the set.
Maybe the Wombats should move to Melbourne. In the meantime however, Murphy hints that perhaps another visit down under is on the technicoloured horizon: “You’ve been outrageously kind, thank you. The word in my inbox is that we’re going to be here a lot sooner than you might think, so we’ll see you then.”