featuring Barns Courtney
October 24, 2018 at House of Blues
On the way back home from work, the green line train did what the green line does best: broke down. Cold and frustrated, I slowly trekked back to my apartment to grab my camera and then headed to the House of Blues for The Wombats concert.
As I passed the Prudential building, I passed a man in a pink hoodie looking down walking in the opposite direction. After a triple-take, I said “Murph?,” and the lead singer of The Wombats turned around. I couldn’t help but notice how tired he looked. It was nearing the end of their tour and Matthew Murphy wasn’t with the rest of the band, so it was in that moment that I realized how valuable alone time is when you’re touring the world and performing every night. I said my good-bye’s, immediately went through a daze from meeting one of my favorite singers, then made my way over to the House of Blues.
I bring this story up because despite the exhaustion Murph may have been feeling, the energy throughout the night was overwhelming. The show opened with English singer and songwriter, Barns Courtney, who entered in a godly fashion, dressed in a loose long-sleeved white shirt that glowed in the stage light. Best known for his viral singles ‘Fire’ and ‘Glitter & Gold,’ Courtney owned the stage between his powerful vocals and guitar, dancing with his band members, and crowd surfing on top of his fans and soon-to-be fans. It’s safe to the say the audience was warmed up by the end of his set.
As the anticipation grew between acts, the lights went out and Matthew Murphy, Tord Øverland-Knudsen, and Dan Haggis entered a venue full of enthusiastic, screaming fans (myself included, of course). What I love about The Wombats’ performances is the energy between the three members. For a band that’s been around since 2003, all three have the stage energy of middle schoolers who have had just a little too much sugar.
They kicked off the night with ‘Cheetah Tongue,’ the opening track of their newest album, and Tord’s feet were arguably in the air longer than they were on the floor. Dan aggressively exudes passion when he sings and harmonizes while doing duty on the drums. Murph brings new meaning and life to his lyrics and guitar riffs when he performs live. Watching any member alone is an experience itself, but seeing the members perform both in their own bubble and with each other is remarkable.
While a bit anticlimactic for new fans and casual listeners, The Wombats catered their setlist to older fans by including songs that spanned back to their first LP, Proudly Present… A Guide To Love, Lost, & Desperation. In addition to playing their most popular tracks like ‘Moving To New York’ and ‘Jump Into The Fog,’ they treated old listeners with tracks they hadn’t played in the past tour like ‘Patricia The Stripper’ (which yes, is about falling in love with a stripper).
The band finished the main set with their most popular song, ‘Let’s Dance To Joy Division,’ which opened with a crisp guitar riff from Murph before the rest of the band jumped in. Halfway through the song, four people in wombat costumes joined the stage and danced through the end as the audience sang along to the repeating line, “So happy! And we’re so happy!”
Even though a majority of their tracks are about heartbreak, depression, and anxiety, The Wombats find a way to make their songs deceivingly happy. I’m sure the members were exhausted from touring for months, but I have to thank them for creating an empowering atmosphere with their honest music. When I see them live, it’s a beautiful reminder in the air that we all go through our own troubles and carry our own luggage, but there’s a sense of unity with the people around us. We’re going to make it out okay.
Photos by Juliette Paige