Arriving to The Wombats first night (of three) in Mountford Hall, Liverpool Guild of Students, I had high expectations; these expectations unfortunately dropped just short. The night was eventful to say the least – good music, but with the strong smell of dehydrated urine. This is not the responsibility of the band, however when it came to the set, I have to say the set list seemed somewhat scattered and I think it could have been better ordered.
The Wombats are an indie rock band formed in Liverpool in 2003 and are currenting touring All the Hits! Three of the eight shows on this tour were in their hometown. The tour was well received by the fanbase, resulting in an extension – adding dates in August and November. Their latest album Fix Yourself, Not the World reached the UK number one spot. Surprisingly this was their first number one album.
The crowd was typical for an indie rock band, with fans ranging from 14 to mid-thirties, and of course the Radio 4 dads at the back. The balcony was mostly 40+ couples. Entering the venue there was definitely a feeling of a predominantly male crowd, however once inside it was almost levelled out. It was very busy, and I would argue oversold with the amount of people in the crowd. The Wombats have a huge following; this being clear with three shows in hometown Liverpool and the quantity of Wombats’ merch, specifically t-shirts, amongst the crowd.
The venue reminded me of a school assembly hall and I’m not sure it did the band or sound any favours…
The first support was Rivia, an alt-rock band based in Liverpool. The next two Liverpool shows have supports from The Peach Fuzz and Natalie Mccool. It’s great to see The Wombats giving a platform to up-and-coming artists and bands.
Vistas introduced themselves early on, emphasising that they are from Scotland. They were a solid support act and kept referring to The Wombats, showing their gratitude to be on tour with the band. By getting the audience excited for the main event, the purpose of a support, they definitely delivered. The set lasted less than 40 minutes but they sounded great throughout. My one critique as such was it didn’t feel like much of a ‘performance’, with the crowd only really becoming fully engaged with Vistas towards the end of their set. Having said this, I would say this is quite common with support bands due to the majority of the crowd attending the gig for the headliner.
Then came on The Wombats, the moment we’ve all been waiting for… but they started with ‘Flip Me Upside Down’ – a song from their latest album. This didn’t do the job of getting the crowd pumped and engaged immediately. Following on immediately with ‘This Car Drives All by Itself’, again, there was a lack of acknowledgment or engagement from the crowd. This start was a bit mediocre.
After these two songs The Wombats introduced themselves and addressed the crowd before playing ‘Moving to New York.’ Immediately this song got a roar from the crowd and the atmosphere was buzzing. Without a doubt they should have started with this song. Moving onto ‘Cheetah Tongue’, this again maintained the crowd and the band had great energy on stage. Pausing after these two songs to speak to the crowd, The Wombats showed their caring nature stating, “Be careful with pushing in the crowd, if people fall over pick them up!” This of course is lovely, but again reaffirms that it was VERY crowded and potentially oversold. Plugging their fifth album, they of course dropped the subtle flex in that it reached number one. They then played ‘Ready for the High’ from this latest album; there wasn’t a huge crowd buzz until about halfway through the song.
Following on Matthew Murphy, The Wombats’ frontman, revealed that he used to live in London, with an immediate boo from the crowd. The classic North vs South competitiveness was in full swing. The next song ‘Techno Fan’ was about Matthew’s time living in London. This was played incredibly, sounding better live than it does on the record. The long outro was met with the introduction of ‘Pink Lemonade’ as “This is part of a two-part series on my favourite fruit… which is a lemon.” Again, the crowd was buzzing; the common theme being the older tracks being better received than the latest ones.
The set continued playing ‘Everything I Love is Going to Die’, fading into ‘1996’, and then ‘Kill the Director.’ I’m going to be honest, I wasn’t paying much attention during these few songs as I was focused on the fact someone threw their urine over me and I stank. This resulted in a toilet break to scrub and wash my arms and asking a poor woman if I smelt like pee – bless her. However, I can safely say the sinks and soap at Liverpool Guild of Students are of good quality.
‘Lemon To a Knife Fight’, the second part of the favourite fruit series, received a huge crowd reaction beforehand, and energy remained throughout the song. This led onto an acoustic rendition of ‘Lethal Combination.’ I think acoustic versions at a live gig can sometimes be risky with the potential to lose crowd engagement, however this song didn’t fall short, and actually I think the change in tempo was beneficial to the set. The transition from this acoustic version into ‘Tokyo (Vampires & Wolves)’ was seamless and the buzz from the crowd was met with intense strobe lighting. The crowd were all clapping, in sync, to the beat – The Wombats have formed their own cult.
The introduction to ‘If You Ever Leave, I’m Coming with You’ was sentimental, with Matthew telling a brief personal anecdote that this track was written about his wife who had said to him “If You Ever Leave, I’m Coming with You.” A heart-warming moment to say the least. This song was performed very well, and it sounded great. The “last song” was ‘Greek Tragedy’, which naturally was well received by the crowd, especially given the song has gone viral on TikTok.
As soon as they left the stage, the crowd started chanting “one more song.” They returned to the stage playing ‘Method to the Madness.’ Again, I think this song choice was surprising, as the crowd didn’t really get re-engaged until the very end – this being due to it being a slower song. In my notes I wrote it was a bit wishy-washy and I can’t think of a more sophisticated was of writing this… They almost made it harder for themselves by re-starting with this song. This is why I think the set list and play order was muddled.
‘Let’s Dance to Joy Division’ was massive! In my opinion they should have started with this song, OR this should have been the first encore song. Of course, I’m referring to the “I’m back in Liverpool” lyrics, and I think this could have been used and optimised better. Having said this I, without a doubt, enjoyed the song and they sounded very good.
With thanks to the fans and the supports, Matthew concluded with “it’s a pleasure to be home for three days, this is our last song called ‘Turn.’” The crowd cut him off with a scream and with a heavy drum and beat, the final song ended the night with a bang. The multi-coloured strobes and confetti were a beautiful sight to end the almost two-hour set.
My overall conclusions are that despite the tour being called All the Hits!, I would argue not all the songs played would be regarded or defined as “hits”, but maybe I’m being picky. The set would have been just as good with a few less songs, and I think a restructure of the set list would be beneficial. I say this having still had a great night and enjoyable experience, but given it’s The Wombats, who have a reputation, I obviously had higher expectations.