The Wombats - HMV Apollo, London
It's been over three years since The Wombats burst onto the scene, becoming the band for indie kids in the process, so the main concern must be whether their core audience is still there or whether they've grown up and moved onto musical pastures new. A packed, but not sold out, HMV Apollo seemed to answer that question; although from the looks of the sickeningly youthful crowd, they may have lost a few oldies and picked up some fresh blood along the way thanks to comeback single 'Tokyo (Vampires And Wolves)' and recent single 'Jump Into The Fog'. Quite what the oldies will make of their new sound, with a marked move away from hook-friendly rock pop of their debut, is anyone's guess but at least tonight's set showcased that The Wombats have spent the last three years doing some growing up of their own.
As much as showcase gigs for new material are interesting for fans, they do come with their own inherent problems and tonight was no exception. While crowd reactions for old favourites like 'Kill The Director' bordered on mass hysteria, reaction for the newer material, even 'Jump Into The Fog', was considerably more muted - put elegantly by drummer Dan as an "attentive" response. It all added up to a set with distinct peaks and troughs where any momentum quickly dissapated. Things threaten to de-rail completely with a mid-set double bill of 'Techno Fan' and 'Schumacher The Champagne', although the band cleverly followed up with a hectic 'Backfire At The Disco' immediately after.
The majority of the new tracks on display tonight make solid first impressions. 'Techno Fan' perfectly mimicks the titular genre with a high-octane outro that the trio take full advantage of; while set opener 'Our Perfect Disease' is a great slab of dark electro rock, perfectly complemented by the impressive light show which ranges from the moody to the epilepsy-inducing throughout. 'Schumacher The Champagne' is really the only new effort on display that is a touch clunky and dreary, but its position as last track on the new album could prove to be its saving grace instead of it being deployed mid-set.
However, one thing you can never accuse The Wombats of lacking is energy and their exuberant performance means you can forgive the troughs because the peaks are mountainous. 'Here Comes The Anxiety' is as close to a slow burner as the band get with the explosion of guitars in its final bridge expertly crafted for maximum effect, providing a perfect companion piece to the wall of sound reverbs of 'Party In A Forest (Where's Laura?)'. 'My First Wedding' proves to be the night's highlight though, descending into a thing of chaotic beauty that Dan states "always takes it out of them"; the rendition might not be note-perfect but we'll take enjoyable carnage over measured performance any day of the week.
And as the encore rolls around and 'Let's Dance To Joy Division' prompts another foundation-shaking singalong, you start to realise that The Wombats might just be one of those critic-proof bands. It's almost a guarantee that even if This Modern Glitch is slated, they'll still be playing to a packed house on their next tour simply because the level of adulation from their fans borders on reverence and that's unlikely to waver - new sound or not.
OUR PERFECT DISEASE
KILL THE DIRECTOR
PARTY IN A FOREST (WHERE'S LAURA?)
JUMP INTO THE FOG
PATRICIA THE STRIPPER
HOW I MISS SALLY BRAY
HERE COMES THE ANXIETY
SCHUMACHER THE CHAMPAGNE
BACKFIRE AT THE DISCO
MOVING TO NEW YORK
MY FIRST WEDDING
TOKYO (VAMPIRES AND WOLVES)
LET'S DANCE TO JOY DIVISION