Words by Aidan Mc Namee
Header Image by Vishnu R Nair on Unsplash
Not many bands from the early 2000s heyday of indie rock can still hit the mark, often delivering a variety of middling newer songs before getting to the classics we all know and love. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth for The Wombats who, hot off the heels of their latest chart-topping album Fix Yourself, Not the World, have defended their position as Britain’s favourite indie band that just won’t quit. The recent Cardiff date of their ‘All The Hits’ tour lived up to its name, providing their latest hit songs and fan favourite classics in plentiful amounts.
Before The Wombats took to the stage, we were greeted to an opening performance from breakout alt-rock band Sports Team. After rising to prominence during the pandemic, with their debut album Deep Down Happy coming just 571 copies short of beating Lady Gaga for number 1 album, the band have hit the live scene hard. Admittedly, I wasn’t familiar with much of Sports Team’s discography beforehand, but I still managed to get hyped during their set. It was far from perfect, still lacking their own distinct sound, but breakout hit ‘Here’s the Thing’ and various songs from their upcoming album Gulp managed to elicit a good reaction from the crowd. Frontman Alex Rice deserves most of the credit here, bringing electrifying energy to their performance with wild dancing and forays into the crowd. The same could not be said for the rest of the band who, perhaps having become too familiar with the live scene, looked bored on stage for most of their set. Flaws aside, Sports Team show promise for the future and are one to watch.
After weaving my way toward the front during an intermission filled with indie and rock bangers that transported me back to a Year 10 house party, the lights came down and the crowd went wild for the main event. Hitting the ground running with an energetic performance, The Wombats began with a foray into their newer stuff. First up, ‘Flip Me Upside Down’, a perfect introduction with its distinctive bass rhythm hyping the crowd for an energetic chorus. Next came ‘This Car Drives All by Itself’, confirming that the classic indie boy “I only listen to their old stuff” wasn’t on display, with the crowd passionately singing along to every word while erupting into dancing and moshing. But for any classic Wombats loyalists in the audience, they soon launched into fan favourite classic ‘Moving to New York’ and reminded us all why we fell in love with their tunes in the first place.
After a few more tunes and a rowdy reaction to ‘Ready for the High’ and the dancing wombat trumpeters on stage, two things were clear to me: 1. The Wombats discography was even better than I’d realised and 2. At the ripe old age of 24, I was officially too old for the pit. So feeling the weight of my younger, moshing self’s disappointment on my shoulders, I ventured toward the back for calmer seas. Further away from the action, I realised the diversity of fans in attendance. There were young kids with their parents and teens that barely looked old enough to be freshers, to people in their 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond all brought together by The Wombats, a testament to their enduring legacy.
From further back, I was treated to an excellent view of ‘Pink Lemonade’. A personal favourite of mine, but not one I’d expected to be a massive crowd-pleaser, this number turned the production values up to 11. Building upon the already fun and playful visuals we’d been treated to so far, from the colourful stage design to the costumed dancers, huge smoke-filled bubbles were launched across the arena. Blowing bubbles doesn’t sound much in writing, and maybe it is a case of “you had to be there”, but it perfectly accentuated the poppy, upbeat sound of ‘Pink Lemonade’.
Following that, it was hit after hit from across their whole discography, from new track ‘Everything I Love is Going to Die’ (cheerier than it sounds) right back to ‘Kill the Director’, keeping fans old and new singing and dancing through the night. At this point, frontman Matthew Murphy slowed the pace significantly, peeling back all the grandeur for a more intimate moment. Armed only with a spotlight and an acoustic guitar Murphy led the entire crowd in a moving singalong of ‘Lethal Combination’ that, even with a brief interruption from him forgetting the lyrics, still managed to fill the room. But not content to rest for long, they soon ramped back up into ‘Tokyo (Vampires and Wolves)’ and ‘If You Ever Leave I’m Coming With You’, before moving on to their “final song” (air quotes included). Not to avoid the big elephant in the room, they launched into ‘Greek Tragedy’, the 2015 song that experienced a brief revival following its success on TikTok.
The encore was far from an afterthought, re-entering the stage with ‘Method to the Madness’. There had been one glaring omission to the setlist at this point, the fan favourite song that put The Wombats on the map, and we were all dying to hear it. Not to disappoint, they belted out ‘Let’s Dance to Joy Division’, sending the arena absolutely wild as we all sang “Yeah we’re so happy!”. Energetic to the end, they finally closed the night with ‘Turn’, a great performance made more impressive with a spectacular shower of sparks and a reappearance of our favourite marsupial brass instrumentalists.
So, in bringing old and new fans together, showcasing the absolute best of their discography and giving a fantastic performance, The Wombats latest tour is truly a tour de force that reminded me why I fell in love with them in the first place, and proved they’ll still be able to rock for years to come.