LIVE REVIEW: The Wombats with Barns Courtney in Portland, ME 10.22.18
It was a night of feel good – but slightly grimy – British pop-rock on Monday night in Portland where New England’s northernmost state was lucky enough to get a piece of the action on The Wombats’ Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life Tour.
The night started with Barns Courtney, who didn’t get the memo he was playing an opening set rather than a headline one. With only a half hour, short but sweet set, he packed a punch holding nothing back. Donned in a leather jacket and single feather earring, he couldn’t stop moving around the stage, off the stage, into the crowd, and over into the seated section. The “Fun Never Ends” with this first unreleased track into another called “London Girls.” With his debut album, The Attractions of Youth being out for just over a year, and the second seemingly already written, there’s no doubt we’ll be seeing a lot more of Barns. New single “99” showed how familiar the crowd already is with him, and “Glitter & Gold” an earwig song that’s popped up in a few places had people singing along.
Someone yelled for “Fire” too soon in the set and Barns responded with, “Who names a song “Fire?” I mean, I was the first person to do it. I taught Kasabian everything they know.. before I was born,” tying in just how grungy Brit rock he is. Crooner “Golden Dandelions” followed, where, in true rock star spirit, Barns demanded the crowd to cheer for him before running over to the side of the venue into the seated section again to sing “Kicks.” If the venue structure had allowed, it wouldn’t have been surprising if he climbed balconies and swan dove into the crowd. Making his way back to the stage, he played along with some cat and mouse “oohs” and “ahhs” before the awaited “Fire” erupted in full chorus as he yelled at the crowd to get down on the floor as he joined in a harmonious jump session. With all of the pretty generic rock coming out these days, Barns Courtney is someone who’s against that mold and one to watch.
With the crowd warmed up from the embers of “Fire,” The Wombats came bouncing onto the stage. As long as they’ve been doing this, it’s amazing to see that their limitless energy still avails. From the first notes of “Cheetah Tongue,” it was obvious this band has a niche, dedicated fan base. The band beckoning, “Oh won’t you “Give Me A Try”” was unnecessary, as the audience was reacting and responding to every word. “1996” featured a super synthed up intro, which modifies the familiar with a blend of something different. Throughout the night, The Wombats did a great job of keeping the setlist a fair mix of new and old, obviously focusing about half the songs on the newest album Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life, and the other half on gems of the past. Such a colorful band made black and white happen, with “Black Flamingo” into “White Eyes,” two songs about wanting to love, but not entirely knowing how to reciprocate or receive it.
Pub style sing-along classic, “Patricia the Stripper” brought the sunshine and reassured that the band’s debut album – A Guide to Love, Loss & Desperation – isn’t going anywhere, nor is The Wombats’ sense of humor and witty discourse. The jangly keys opening “Techno Fan” built up the energy as fans bopped and bounced and hopped right along into “Emoticons,” which seemed to be a fan favorite. They have so many songs about awkwardness and not knowing how to talk to girls or express feelings in person, but their song lyrics are always witty, thoughtful, and playful.
“Lemon to a Knife Fight” seemed to drive up the teenage hearts in an explosive mime dance that was probably the most alive the crowd had been the whole show. “I Don’t Know Why I Like You but I Do” showed a sexier, slow jam side of the generally high energy three-piece. When concluded, a fan in the crowd called out: “I know why I like you!” to which frontman Matt Murphy responded, “Is it because we have a squirrel on stage called Steve?!”
The group’s latest single “Bee-Sting” brought a rise from the crowd, proving that satellite radio and streaming services like Spotify are just as helpful in maintaining a band’s success as they are in breaking bands. A good amount of the crowd had probably never seen The Wombats before, and still ate up every former Alt Nation single from the past 4 years wholeheartedly.
Murph’s charming story time told of how “Pink Lemonade” is the tale of how he was in Barcelona trapped in introversion and firmly believing his girlfriend was having wild orgies without him. Next came a treat for all the tenured Wombats fans in attendance with four songs that seamlessly fit together. “Moving to New York” proved they can be just as explosive as when they were young whippersnappers in the UK 12 years ago. “Jump into the Fog” is more on the melodic side, but still coyly crass enough to prove that everyone needs a little debauchery on a night out. “Tokyo (Vampires & Wolves)” kept surging the energy until the climactic “Let’s Dance to Joy Division” concluded the main set in a sweaty, breathless wave, complete with a dancing wombats mascot rambling around the stage.
Murph emerged solo for the start of the encore, sweetly strumming “Lethal Combination” under the faded lights. In modern rock, it’s important to be able to switch modes and dynamics, and this was the perfect way to come down before building it back up. “Turn” saw the rise of the younger crowd stepping forward for a last-ditch effort of dancing away the dreary weather blues before the appropriately entitled “Greek Tragedy” finished off the night.
To purchase The Wombats’ new album, Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life click HERE.
If you can’t get enough of The Wombats, they’re re-releasing their debut EP for its 10th anniversary on Black Friday Record Store Day.