No, I didn’t get magically transported to England on Thursday night, but it certainly felt like I did for a second.
Whenever I sing back to music, I typically pick up the accent or inflection of whoever is singing it. This oftentimes makes me feel stupid, but it’s the only way I know how the words sound in the context of that song—I’ve never heard a Kate Nash song sung in a Boston accent, I’ve never heard Kacey Musgraves with a Canadian accent. Still, it feels silly—I’m not British, why am I singing The Wombats in a Scouse accent? But as it turns out, I’m not the only one. As I stood near the front of the crowd of The Wombats‘ sold-out concert at Park West I heard a sea of Liverpool accents screaming the lyrics back at the band.
What was more notable, though, was the roar of the crowd singing the lyrics. Even through masks, it was sometimes tough to make out if I was listening to singer Matthew Murphy or the crowd. That’s when it hit me: The Wombats are big.
A lot of people reading this will think “duh,” but it’s weird to see a band you’ve been following for a long time gradually get bigger and bigger without having a massive breakout moment. I’ve seen The Wombats play small clubs in several cities throughout the U.S., and if they’re big here, they’re even bigger over in the UK, where they’ll be touring in stadiums later this year (as well as some stadiums in Australia).
Park West can hold 1,000 people, and they sold that out easily, even as they played the day after a snowstorm. Murphy and drummer Dan Haggis commented on that during the concert, complimenting attendees on their tenacity as the amount of snow we received would have shut down Liverpool, according to the duo.
The band was touring to support their new album, Fix Yourself, Not the World, which was released Jan. 14. They seamlessly included several new songs into their setlist, including “If You Ever Leave, I’m Coming With You,” which Murphy explained his wife told him years prior when they will still dating, as well as “Everything I Love is Going to Die,” introduced by Murphy as being “a very happy, liberating song with a very grim title.”
It feels almost redundant to describe how the band sounds live. If you’ve heard a Wombats album you’re aware of how they sound. During their live performances The Wombats capture the sound of their albums almost entirely spot on. It’s almost eerie how perfectly bassist and vocalist Tord Knudsen can perfectly match the background “oohs” and other singing that he does on the band’s recordings.
What sets The Wombats’ shows apart, and what can’t be captured in a sound recording, or honestly, even a video, is the energy that they bring to each performance, and how much fun you can clearly tell they’re having. Knudsen is bouncing off the walls at each show, and Murphy and Haggis take the time to joke around after almost every song. Not only is the band clearly having a great time while they play, which is always encouraging to see, compared to musicians who are clearly doing live shows solely for the paycheck, but their music and live performances are so electric that the crowd always is as well.
Without a barrier to separate the stage from the crowd (a concert photographer’s nightmare), the show felt even more intimate and energetic, despite how vast the crowd was. At one point The Wombats remarked that the venue was even “more wide” than it seemed from the stage. While The Wombats play with the energy and heart of a band that’s just starting out and excited to on a stage, they also perform with the seasoned sonic perfection of a band that’s been doing this for 20 years, like they have. It’s doubtless that as they continue to make music their stages will get larger and larger, as they already have, and it’s thrilling to be there for one of the shows where they don’t have to endlessly jump around to make it across the stage, as Knudsen undoubtedly will do.