Live Review: The Wombats, Manchester

The Wombats

Castlefield Bowl, Manchester, 7 July 2019

Words and Photos by Gary Lambert

I truly believe that Castlefield Bowl is the greatest music venue on earth. Seriously! If you can find a venue that combines wonderful sight lines in the amphitheatre, easy access and egress, a remake of a Roman fort, a river, trains, and a heap of industrial architecture then let me know so I can start planning my journey. I don’t care who is playing! Luckily, I did care who was playing on Saturday 6 July 2019 as it was an absolute cracker of a day with The Wombats more than capably supported by Fuzzy Sun, Bloxx (a last second replacement for The Night Café) and Sundara Karma.

The opening band was local-ish (Stockport) heroes, Fuzzy Sun. The band are starting to get a hefty following behind them, but it is not due to parochialism that they were cheered on so much. The five piece have a bright and pleasurable series of songs in their set list and they perform with such gusto that if the songs don’t get to you then their energy will do. This was the third weekend in a row that I was able to watch Fuzzy Sun and I have not grown bored in the slightest.

You would expect from looking at the reaction of the audience to Bloxx’s arrival on stage that they were from Greater Manchester rather than Greater London. They have always had a great level of support in this city, and it seemed to push them on to great heights and to set off an explosion of energy in the mosh pit in front of the stage. If Bloxx’s claim that their debut album contains only new songs rings true, we are going to be in for a rare treat with that release because hearing Headspace and Sea Blue performed live is so powerful and unites their existing fans and creates new ones. It seems too that the London four-piece are a truly happy bunch on stage. Watching Bloxx perform is like seeing four kids leave a ball pool and grow up instantly whilst continuing to have the same level of joy.

It has been a while since I have watched Sundara Karma, and after the wonderful and fairly traditional rock styles of Youth Is Only Fun In Retrospect, I was wondering how the New-York-in-the-Eighties-Bowie meets Sparks rock would be taken by the audience. It is beautiful music on Ulfilas’ Alphabet, but it is not the most obvious. Everybody loved them. Even with a few sound issues on their opening track (which did not stand out because of their artistic nature), there was nothing stopping them. They have grown into a band who saunter around doing exactly what the fuck they want to do, and everybody loves them for it. They are intense and you feel it down to the pit of your stomach. I’ve seen boxers staring at each other before a fight with less focus than Oscar shows whilst he is singing. The greatest compliment I can give this band is that their performance created an additional bonus for the crowd. It made the evening feel like a massive co-headline show rather than The Wombats with support acts.

And that is in no way derogatory to The Wombats as their performance was stunning in completely different way. Whereas Sundara Karma made me want to take a deep breath, The Wombats made me want to hug strangers and dance around. It is one of my quirks that when a band is really impressing me on stage I like to find a way I can watch the gig without watching them so that I can take in more than just the players. So halfway through the set I climbed to the back of Castlefield Bowl by the fort, and spent ten minutes with the overhanging trees and sunroof blocking my view of Murph, Tord and Dan and focused on the crowd. With the power of The Wombats enviable ability to create pop tunes seemingly at the drop of a hat, the crowd stopped being a large number of humans standing in close proximity to each other and melted into liquid form, undulating like a high tide. The Wombats seemed to love it, and even thanked the fans who had sneaked in cans of pyro in order to make the whole thing look even more beautiful.

It was heartwarming to me as a native of Manchester’s sister city, Liverpool, to hear The Wombats decry the rivalry between the two urban areas as they dedicated Tokyo (Vampires and Wolves) to one of the greatest and almost certainly the most missed of Mancunians, Tony “Anthony H” Wilson. You would get the feeling that the man who organised With Love From Manchester (FAC 152) to help raise money for the Labour council in Liverpool in 1986 to support paying the fines issued by Central Government would have appreciated this evening of pleasure from eclectic music in the shadow of the former Granada Studios. I know I did. It was like Christmas came early for me.

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    Popped Music has been going since Feb 2010.

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