Live review: The Wombats at Hindley St Music Hall

The Wombats are clearly fans of Australia (and, given their chosen name, this makes sense), visiting Adelaide for the second time this year. The Liverpool three-piece also has a legion of devoted fans, who were very happy to show up for the second time in six months and belt out every word.

And this is understandable, The Wombats are a big energy, highly entertaining act, who have the three-minute pop-rock song down to a fine art, along with a penchant for clever word play.

They also are very happy to give the punters what they want. While they are a prolific act who have delivered plenty of music this year (an album and an EP), the band obliged with as much of their older material as they played from these recent releases. It was a well-crafted mix that delighted the crowd at the Hindley Street Music Hall.

Opening show was Wollongong heartland rocker Tyne-James Organ. With an affable stage presence and armed with some great songs, he and his band proved to be a perfect pairing for the headline act, doing a stellar job of warming up the audience, who really engaged with the songs. And, with an 8pm set time, it was pleasing to see so many turn up for the early act. Alongside the appealing material from his debut album, his Like a Version cover of the Kooks’ ‘Naïve’ went down very well.

Taking the stage punctually around 9pm, The Wombats opened with crowd-pleaser, ‘Moving to New York’, with other tunes like ‘Techno Fan’ and ‘Ready for the High’ proving early set highlights; the latter incorporating a trombone playing wombat character on stage. It was all colour and energy from the stage.

While the band has carved out a very particular niche, the gradual evolution of their music over time has seen the incorporation of more synth and electronic elements, evidenced for instance when playing ‘Is This What It Feels Like to Feel Like This?’ (the band’s new EP). While remaining a three-piece, they bring this into the live performance through sharing synth duties between all three members during the set.

They chat with us freely between songs, mainly singer/guitarist Matthew Murphy but also drummer, Dan Haggis at times. The banter is good-natured, with just the right amount of self-deprecation: why so many songs about lemons? or an admission that a writing repeated riff does get a bit tiresome when playing live. It would be hard not to like these three!

As the set progresses, songs like ‘Kill the Director’, ‘Tokyo’ and ‘Greek Tragedy’ are among the highlights – and the crowd obliges by singing along.

‘Lethal Combination’ is an important counter-point in the set, with sparlking synth rock stripped back to a solo acoustic guitar and vocal. But the pause is only temporary, with the full band soon back and moving full throttle towards the inevitable encore.

Naturally here, their breakthrough hit ‘Let’s Dance to Joy Division’ is perhaps the high point of the night, before the leave us with ‘Turn’. The wombat creature is also back for the encore, but now there are more of them!

Mention should be made of the venue. The Hindley Street Music Hall is a well-run space, offering a pleasing range of options for enjoying the music – you can stand front and centre, perch on the raked sections or sit up in the balcony area. The sound is also excellent, with a nice balance between volume and clarity.

This was a super fun night of music at a great new venue. And if anyone missed out or wants to go again, the next visit from The Wombats can’t be too far away!

Reviewed by Matthew Trainor

Photos by Skye Sampson