Live Review / The Wombats @ The Institute (25.09.15)

Descending on a last-minute announced date at Birmingham’s Institute, Liverpool-based band The Wombats were welcomed back with open arms as part of their Glitterbug UK tour last month. The venue was packed to the rafters, the alcohol flowing and the screams at deafening levels as the lights went down to welcome the trio on stage.

Launching into ‘Give Me A Try’ in front of a neon skyline backdrop, the atmosphere was set from the get-go; the crowd jumped seemingly in unison, song after song, recapturing the youthful feeling of the band’s debut A Guide to Love, Loss & Desperation. This was clearly obvious to all, with lead singer Matthew Murphy addressing the university freshers in the audience with a simple phrase: “Welcome to the end.” The setlist was abound with gems from all three of the band’s acclaimed albums, flitting from ‘Moving to New York’ and ‘1996’ to fan favourite ‘Patricia the Stripper’ like an iPod on shuffle. It is always a pleasure to see a crowd as rowdy as this one know every single word to even the newest of songs, and the Brummie crowd did not disappoint this time around; some of the loudest sing-along choruses came in the form of Glitterbug inclusions ‘Your Body is A Weapon’, ‘Pink Lemonade’ and ‘Be Your Shadow’.

A highlight of the evening was definitely the encore. Despite my doubts about being included in the setlist, Murphy’s acoustic rendition of ‘Isabel’ was simply gorgeous; it felt as though one of the weaker songs from Glitterbug had finally come to life, proving that sometimes a live setting is the best place for a song to really resonate. Ending the night on a high with two of their strongest and most popular songs to date – ‘Greek Tragedy’ and ‘Let’s Dance to Joy Division’ – it was clear we had all witnessed The Wombats at a really strong peak of their career, confirming their status as a brilliant and established live act.

This was a theme of the evening for me, with the most impressive part of the whole show simply being how the band tailored the setlist to showcase every facet of their evolution. The new and more mature techno sound featured on Glitterbug fit perfectly in-between and around ‘indie disco’ tracks from their first two albums in smooth fashion, Murphy’s vocals never once faltering. Despite being around a while now, The Wombats are clearly experts at their live craft with their material really shining in live format, personally being a contender for one of the best bands I have seen on tour all year.

[Originally written for Redbrick Music]

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