The Wombats – Live in Sheffield Review by Rob Johnson
The Wombats are a band that have often been tolerated rather than embraced by the serious music press. The fact that they are still selling out big venues over 15 years since the release of their seminal debut album Girls, Boys and Marsupials is a testament to their staying power and unrivalled ability to write a massive chorus. And it is clear from the average age of the crowd packed into the Sheffield Academy that this is no nostalgia exercise. The Liverpool band are still winning over new fans, and the tracks from latest album Fix Yourself, Not the World are as insistent and catchy as those magical early singles.
The band kick things off with a searing rendition of ‘Moving to New York’ and it is clear from the off that singer-guitarist Matthew ‘Murph’ Murphy, bassist Tord Øverland Knudsen and drummer Dan Haggis are up for this gig. It is the first night of the tour after all. ‘Flip Me Upside Down’ is the first of seven tracks from their aforementioned latest LP, all of which are greeted like old friends by the adoring crowd. ‘Techno Fan’ is one of the Wombats most underrated tracks and it sounds incredible here, before the band are joined onstage by a man dressed in a gigantic wombat outfit sporting a trombone for ‘Ready for the High’ – confirming once and for all that if you are looking for a good time with a side of self-deprecation, this is the band for you.
Live debuts of both ‘Is This What It Feels Like to Feel Like This?’ and ‘I Think My Mind Has Made Its Made Up’ go down well, but it is the opening bars of ‘Kill the Director’ that send Sheffield into raptures. Look, I know I said they aren’t a nostalgia band, but by God, that song soundtracked so much of my adolescence that it’s impossible not to get swept up in the whole thing.
Early on, Murphy informs the crowd there will be lots of talk about lemons, and sure enough, he’s true to his word, as both ‘Pink Lemonade’ and ‘Lemon to a Knife Fight’ are given an airing, the latter of which being the jewel in the crown of the band’s second phase, and a song that is perfect for packed out venues such as this one. ‘Jump Into the Fog’ sounds massive, a lovely acoustic version of ‘Lethal Combination’ brings things down a notch, before ‘Tokyo (Vampires & Wolves)’ provides arguably the best moment of the entire evening. That song. That chorus.
‘Greek Tragedy’ marks the end of the first part of the set, but happily, the band return to the stage with ‘Method to the Madness’ before a truly epic rendition of ‘Let’s Dance to Joy Division’ sees the crowd jumping and singing with reckless abandon. People around me are literally hugging and high fiving strangers such is the acknowledgement that we are witnessing a band that are still at the height of their powers all these years later. Drink it in.
And just like that, it’s all over, the band leave the stage to ‘Fix Yourself, Not the World’ as cannons fire heart-shaped confetti into the crowd. A fitting end to an incendiary performance. What a band.