“Our new album is number 1 in the UK! No chance here, so we’ll take what we can get.” – Matthew Murphy, of The Wombats
If the group of young people near to me in any way represented the overall crowd at the 9:30 Club there to witness The Wombats on January 21st, then the band has assured its place in the pantheon of indie rock royalty for Generation Z. With literal outbursts of “So hyped!” or “Oh my god, I know this song, it is so lit!”, feverish dancing, and taking randomly short and chaotic portrait oriented videos, you could witness a glimpse of a new generation grasping hold, in real time, of something 18 years in the making, The Wombats rising to multi-generational greatness. A new generation to discover the trio of Matthew Murphy (vocals, guitar and keyboards), Tord Øverland Knudsen (bass and keyboards), and Dan Haggis (drums and keyboards).
It merely took the two sold out shows at the 9:30 Club (which started their US tour), and the release of their fifth studio album (Fix Yourself, Not The World) which catapulted to #1 on the UK charts in its first week, to reach this conclusion, so we may need to add more data. We have toyed with The Wombats since their first album in 2007 (they formed in Liverpool, England in 2003), with classic dance songs “Kill the Director” and “Let’s Dance to Joy Division” that became early staples at such DC spaces as DC9’s weekly Liberation Dance Party. And their follow-up album, This Modern Glitch, with epic rock songs like “Jump Into the Fog” and “Tokyo (Vampires & Wolves)”. Those two albums alone elevated them to a band worth checking out live (and I did four separate times previously). But I believe they have surpassed themselves in the race to the top with the new album. Every track is great. Every note is flawless. To reach the new generation, it helped that the movement was bolstered by the sedate remix of “Greek Tragedy” (from their third album, Glitterbug) by Oliver Nelson that went viral on TikTok. And it worked, the new generation came out to 9:30 Club in troves, singing along to the new music. And the old.
Okay, blah, blah, blah, let’s talk about the music they performed in front of two sold out audiences.
They kicked off the show with “Flip Me Upside Down”, one of nine songs they performed from the new album.
Next they played “The Car Drives All By Itself”, which proved to be among the highlights of the set, with the catchy lyrics, “the kids aren’t wrong, the kids aren’t wrong, the kids aren’t wrong…this time” (also accurate based on the audience) and the easy to shout in unison hook, which many happy concertgoers were pleased to do.
After a few classics like “Moving to New York” and “Techno Fan”, they played the new “Ready for the High”. Their sound technician donned a wombat costume and came on stage to play a horn. Later Matthew acknowledged how traumatic coming on stage must have been for him, given he’s the quiet type. That definitely made it worse.
Next came “Pink Lemonade”, which starts with the very apropos “Another magical Friday night”. Dan grabbed a keyboard and placed it over his tom toms, to add a healthy dose of electro beats, and kept the high hat working in time. Dan’s drums were perched on a cool Rubik’s Cube themed platform. Hidden among the usual detritus at the base of a drum kit was a plaque that honored the #1 album status in UK for Fix Yourself, which Matthew made a grand display to show everyone at one point during the set.
Later, in “People Don’t Change People, Time Does”, the guitar intro and subsequent hook by Tord gleamed brightly in the club as a classic rock throwback, strengthened by his sporting of a ‘PIXIES PIXIES’ t-shirt.
Matthew introduced “If You Ever Leave, I’m Coming with You” as a statement that his girlfriend (now wife) once told him. He thought it was creepy enough at the time, so it stuck. The song is an infectious, head nodding promise, more love letter than creepy.
They ended the main set with “Greek Tragedy”, as noted, the very song that drew many to become willingly ensnared in The Wombats orbit.
Being slightly coy, they finally returned for three songs in the encore, starting with the last Fix Yourself song, “Method to the Madness”. Matthew enthused in response to a heckler’s ‘We Love You!’ shout, ‘We love you too. Very, very much!’ “Method” starts slow and introspective, and the lyrics delve into the hollowness of traveling to a new place, before taking a turn into a mighty musical shout of anger to the world.
Obviously they played “Let’s Dance to Joy Division”, but before they could close out the encore, everyone, having paused from furious dancing, started shouting “Number One” over and over. The Wombats appeared chuffed. And it was true.
The crowd (and I) were certainly visibly chuffed, and (presumably) remain so every time they recall The Wombats at 9:30 Club in 2022.
- Flip Me Upside Down
- The Car Drives All By Itself
- Moving to New York
- Cheetah Tongue
- Techno Fan
- Ready for the High
- Pink Lemonade
- Everything I Love Is Going To Die
- Kill the Director
- People Don’t Change People, Time Does
- Lemon to a Knife Fight
- Jump Into the Fog
- Don’t Poke the Bear
- Tokyo (Vampires & Wolves)
- If You Ever Leave, I’m Coming with You
- Greek Tragedy
- Method to the Madness
- Let’s Dance to Joy Division