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Wednesday, 20 April 2016

A View From The Back Of The Room: Wolfmother

Wolfmother & Electric Citizen, O2 Academy, Bristol

Myself and Wolfmother go way back, they are part of the first few bands that I 'discovered' by myself, I remember my  Dad buying me their debut album from Virgin Records in Bridgend when I was 16, still to this day one of only two albums the Genesis and Pink Floyd mega fan, ever bought for me as a kid, the other being Metallica's St Anger (don't judge). I luckily got to see the original Wolfmother line up that following year at Download 2007 and despite being something of a Wolfmother fan this was becoming the only time I had seen the Aussie rockers live. Consider this rectified as finally after 9 years I have seen them again this time close to home in the O2 Academy Bristol.

This was their Gypsy Caravan tour supporting their new record but also the 10th anniversary of their self titled debut, I managed to wrangle my normally Djent loving brother to come and see a band that he too loved when he was younger, with the promise of mainly classics. We dispatched at a early time and made our way across the bridge before settling in the Hatchet and waited. Going into the venue with O2 Priority we took my usual place of middle balcony and waited for the show to begin, serenaded by a handful of classics by Deep Purple and The Rolling Stones the Academy began to fill with punters as the support band took to the stage to very little applause or fanfare.

This support band were Cincinnati Ohio's Electric Citizen who were on their debut UK tour, the five piece consisted of Rachel Dolan on vocals, her husband Ross on guitar (SG of course), bassist Randy Proctor, drummer Nate Wagner and newest member Katie on keys and percussion. With a flash Ross dove into some Iommi-esque riffs and the show began, Rachel seemed to be controlled by the music letting riff after retro riff wash over her before beginning to bewitch the audience with her haunting powerful vocals. There is a distinctly retro fell about Electric Citizen, they are firmly sat in the 70's rock boom, imagine a leather clad Stevie Nicks fronting Sabbath and you'd be onto a winner, as the set progressed the rhythm section kept the pace thick and fast which allowed Ross to peel off solo after solo guiding the onstage freakout as his wife pulled great shapes. As good as the band were they were let down by the mix, much of the set was marred by the inability to hear Rachel's vocals clearly even when they were echoed on the mic, still the band are a bit of firebrand and were warmly received and their 30 minute set flew by. Personally I can't wait to see them supporting Orange Goblin towards the end of the year to actually be able to be a better judge. 7/10

* This point about the crowd brings me to something I noticed and actually I thought would happen at this gig, due to Wolfmother's relative popularity when they first came out (Apple advert etc) many people who don't regularly attend rock gigs were present at the Bristol gig and while I encourage people to go out and watch live music, many of the crowd in attendance didn't stick to the unwritten code of gig etiquette, something that I won't dwell too much on but if you go to a gig, especially if it something you don't usually do; at least clap the support band, have a bit of respect for others personal space, realise not everyone wants to pit and if you do want to, don't get plastered and do it as you will cause yourself or someone else an injury, most importantly if someone goes down pick them back up and finally for the love of fuck do not STAND on your mates shoulders mid gig because if you do you are a twat. *

Anyway back to the gig itself and as the stage was cleared in record time the three areas were set up ready for Wolfmother to take the stage then dead on 9pm they did, the familiar afro of Wolfmother's Andrew Stockdale took stage right and slapped on the Gibson SG, while Ian Peres was stage left with his Rickenbacker and Korg keyboard, while touring member Alex Carapetis was behind the kit. With everyone in place they kicked straight into the first single off the latest album the chest-beating Victorious which immediately grabbed the crowd by the short and curlys as fists went up high and heads banged. Not a moment was lost as the dove into New Moon Rising with Stockdale on fine form his vocals were still the unique style he has always favoured mixing Bob Dylan with Roger Daltrey, while his guitar playing is a sparkling example, easily riffing like a bastard and soloing like Page and Hendrix combined, Carapetis slots in with flair anchoring the tracks with a percussive blast, however it's Peres who tends to draw the attention as he switches between the bass and the keys, sometimes playing both at once (one hand on each), he is like a firecracker on his side of the stage, bolstering everything Stockdale does letting him give his flourishes to the tracks.

On the back of New Moon Rising was the first real crowd pleaser with Woman causing anarchy in the now sardine-like floor, the crowd were singing every note back and yet more chaos ensued with Apple Tree. Finally the pace slowed with The Love That You Give and the jangling psychedelic White Unicorn backed with thundering White Feather still even in the slower numbers the band were loud as hell and Peres dived around the stage with boundless energy, between the songs Stockdale and Peres switched their vintage instruments for other vintage instruments maintaining the air of retor about them throughout. California Queen's frantic riff squealed out of Stockdale's amp and the crowd were off again jumping and smashing into each other with force, then into the How Many Times the sole song from their self released effort New Crown, after which Peres took up his box teardrop bass guitar for the fuzzy, ode to the summer of love Gypsy Caravan, which spiraled dreamily into the the driving Dimension which had the fans bouncing and shouting the chorus back as the band rocked out on stage. After this explosion it was time to relax again this time for The Simple Life, City Lights and the trippy Mind's Eye which was followed by the Dylanesque Pretty Peggy With the folksy number out of the way they led into the final two classics to close the set proper with Pyramid and Colossal which was indeed that.

I must commend Wolfmother on their lack of pontificating between songs, a quick "Thank You" and a brief discourse on how beautiful Bristol was (helped no end by the sunshine of the day), even after Colossal they were off rapidly, letting the crowd build themselves into a frenzy before slinking back on to the stage for the encore. Special applause to Peres who broke a string on the Rickenbacker (after playing it wildly) then managed to pick up, tune, plug in and play his other bass all while also playing the keys. As you can probably appreciate both tracks came from their debut (in fact most of the set was drawn from it) with Vagabond starting the encore with aplomb, getting the energy raised for 'that' song, back to the SG and the riff for Joker And The Thief cranked out at full volume was euphoria, with Carapetis banging hell out of the tubs and Peres making magic on the organ it was the perfect climax to a red hot set from these Aussie's. With this and The Sheepdogs earlier this year the classic rock bands are really sticking it to the metal acts in the live arena, I realise it was personal taste but Christ Wolfmother were good, an almost perfect set, played with passion and intensity to a packed out partisan and at times raucous crowd. I do hope I don't have to wait another 9 years to see them again as they are made for the live arena and the smile on my and my brothers face for the entirety of the gig was evidence of that. 10/10

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