Review: The Wombats at Hordern Pavilion, Sydney, 24 July 2018
What is it with The Wombats and Australia? The Liverpudlian indie-pop three-piece appears to have a fascination with the country that is home to their loveable namesake, and with good reason. The boys from Old Blighty draw huge crowds to each show or festival they play, with adoring fans willingly waiting hours on end to get a glimpse of their emotion-filled, addictive sound. Tuesday night in Sydney was no exception, with a sold-out Hordern Pavilion the scene for another stellar show in their catalogue of live efforts.
Fellow Brit Elderbrook opened for the main act with his unique mix of synthesised harmonies and loop pedals. The crowd was polite and appreciative, but clearly restless as they waited it out for the act they’d really come to see.
Pre-show impatience was quickly quashed once the band’s logo was projected onto the stage backdrop, with the eerie opening to ‘Cheetah Tongue’ spreading a momentary silence across the crowd. Shrieks and cries of joy greeted the group as they made their way onto stage, not pausing until after third song ‘1996’ to address the fans.
As always, the group appeared genuinely humbled to be playing in front of such a rapturous audience, thanking everyone for showing up despite it being a Tuesday night in the middle of winter.
The group played a collection of hits old and new, mainly from February’s Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life (BPWRYL). The knowledgeable crowd drowned out vocalist Matthew Murphy as every chorus was belted out with as much verve and passion as possible.
Despite BPWRYL hits being the focal point of the night, with a lovely rendition of bizarre slow-dance ‘Lethal Combination’ being a rare live performance, the group didn’t neglect the hits that made them so loved Down Under: sifting through ‘Kill the Director’, ‘Techno Fan’, ‘Moving to New York’, ‘Let’s Dance to Joy Division’, and ‘Tokyo’, much to the crowd’s adulation.
The night, much like the band, was not without its quirks.
Murphy forgot the lyrics to ‘I Don’t Know Why I Like You But I Do’, gleefully admitting so mid-song to the chuckling crowd.
The group later basked in the glory of their self-titled “fruit trilogy”, performing ‘Lemon to a Knife fight’, the aforementioned ‘I Don’t Know Why I Like You But I Do’ (with the lyrics “You’re in my cherry cake and swimming in my wine, you’re in the orange juice that I spill at half time”), and ‘Pink Lemonade’.
‘Moving to New York’ was non-stop shenanigans, opening with a nice touch of soothing elevator music and featuring a riff-off between Murphy’s rhythm and Tord Øverland Knudsen’s bass guitars.
Knudsen was serenaded by the crowd for his birthday, as the Nordic sword-wielder celebrated his 36th birthday in rockstar fashion.
The birthday well wishes came just before the band exited stage left, leaving ‘Let’s dance to Joy Divison’ ringing out, only to return minutes later after much pleading from the crowd. Playing hits ‘Turn’, ‘Tokyo’, and ‘Greek Tragedy’ for an encore, the band well and truly left their mark on Hordern for their penultimate Australian show.
The Wombats have got the art of performing live down to a tee. They know how to serenade a crowd, and they know how to rock one to its core.
On Tuesday night they did both.