You’d never know that Barns Courtney was just the support act tonight. 3 songs in, a good number in the crowd are singing along, and Barns himself is orchestrating crowd cheers from different sections of Theatre Corona purely when he points a raised fist at them. Perhaps it helps when you have a song that’s a theme song to a TV show which people will recognize; in this case, “Glitter & Gold” from the excellent Safe on Netflix. Or perhaps he’s just that good. During one song, he climbs up on the front fence, supported at the shins by security and the front-row patrons, then goes even further on his last song. After asking “are you ready to get sweaty?!”, he gets the crowd to crouch on the floor, before hopping over the fence to join them. On his mark, everyone jumps to their feet and bounces to close out the song in a huge pogo-fest. His set barely scratches 30 minutes, but he certainly leaves his mark.
15 years and 4 albums into their existence as a band, it’s incredible that this is the first time EVER that UK 3-piece The Wombats have headlined in Montreal. No, that Osheaga set in 2016 doesn’t count; even the band insist as much midway through their set. Kicking off with Cheetah Tongue from their newest 2018 record Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life, the singalongs arrive right from the first song, providing a few hundred harmonies for frontman Matthew Murphy, and continue for the duration of the set. Bassist Tord Øverland Knudsen instigates a massive clapalong to set off the epic Give Me A Try. The floor bounces in unison at the chorus, before taking over vocal duties altogether at the breakdown on Tord’s signal; it sounds huge.
After the electronica-tinged 1996, drummer Dan Haggis is more than happy to try his hand at the local language: “la prochaine chanson s’appelle Black Flamingo!” It’s in the thickest British accent you can imagine, but the crowd cheer raucously regardless. After the White Eyes and its Personal-Jesus-esque riffs, Patricia The Stripper gets a French introduction too, and that’s grammatically sound as well! How to make friends and influence people…
Techno Fan appropriately starts with both Matthew and Tord using effects boxes and keyboards to start, before switching back to their trusty guitars for the chorus, which sparks another riotous pogo across the floor. Lemon To A Knife Fight sees Tord switch from bass to acoustic guitar for a softer sound of sorts, and is soon followed by the metaphor-laden ballad I Don’t Know Why I Like You But I Do…or at least, the closest thing The Wombats will get to a ballad!
Dan sets up a keyboard on top of his bass drum, which is swiftly found to be on the fritz before they can start the song it’s intended for: “this is Pink Lemonade! Oh, mon clavier est cassé! Skip!” With that, the keyboard is dumped on a roadie who had assumed his work was done for the night; apparently Matt warned him before the show not to jinx himself by saying dumb things like that! The blazing riffs of their classic breakthrough Moving To New York arrives instead, with zero complaints from the bouncing crowd, before Pink Lemonade finally follows, without a hitch this time.
After the resonant Jump Into The Fog, Tokyo (Vampires & Wolves) brings a stomping dance vibe, with its hammering bassline and thumping drums, and maintains the relentless pace. Matthew then announces “this is our fake last song!”, closing out the main set with the disjointed garage rock of Lets Dance To Joy Division, culminating in both Matthew and Tord roaming the front of stage, yelling “WE’RE SO HAPPY!” in unison with the crowd.
After a brief break, the routine “olé” chants of the Montreal crowd beckon Matthew back to the stage first, for a solo acoustic rendition of Lethal Combination. There’s a few mic issues before he can do so, adding to those from earlier in the set, prompting him to declare “this is a very Wombats gig tonight!” The solo version is ultimately fantastic, as is the magical Turn with follows once the rest of the band return to the stage. Leading up to the chorus, the band elect to drop off their mics entirely to let the crowd bellow the line “it don’t get better than this!”, which sounds absolutely goosebump-inducing. The brilliant Greek Tragedy closes out the show for good after 85 minutes, complete with a guy in a Wombat outfit running around the stage throughout; a very Wombats gig indeed! A truly special Montreal debut for The Wombats; as we just sang, “it don’t get better than this!”
Give Me A Try
Patricia The Stripper
Lemon To A Knife Fight
I Don’t Know Why I Like You But I Do
Moving To New York
Jump Into The Fog
Tokyo (Vampires & Wolves)
Let’s Dance To Joy Division
Lethal Combination (Acoustic Solo)
Review – Simon Williams
Photos – Kieron Yates