Wolfmother at House of Blues, 5/12/2014
Photos by Jim Bricker
Wolfmother House of Blues May 12, 2014
To be a successful rock band these days you need a signature sound, one that makes you stand out above the rest. People need to identify with you, which is impossible if you're just another band going through the motions after becoming big on your lead single.
Wolfmother have that kind of sound, and were lucky enough to have that breakout single. But they're not the type of band to hide behind said single. They have a whole bunch more to say, which they proved with a career-spanning two-plus hour set that kept the Monday night crowd at House of Blues alive and kicking (much less violently than Solange, of course) from start to finish.
The Australians made it big on the scene thanks to their song "Woman," which was featured in just about every video game and commercial in the mid-2000s. On the strength of the rest of their material, they've seen a huge growth in their fanbase in the decade they've been active.
But like all bands, a discovery period had to happen to allow them to keep going. At one point Andrew Stockdale, curly-fro'ed front man and the group's guiding force, disbanded Wolfmother, only bringing them back because of so many fan requests. While they have had several personnel changes over the years, their latest incarnation seems to be locked into a groove.
That much is evident with the release of their latest highly anticipated record, one that was five years in the making. With so many changes throughout the years, Stockdale almost went out on his own, but knowing the strength of the music Wolfmother had already created, it would have been a shame to lose such a solid discography to time. And he saw that, which is why they are still rocking stages to this very day.
And rock they did, for a long time. "Woman" was the third song they played, but it felt like the tenth. By the time they got to "Apple Tree," which was only four songs later, it was already an hour and 20 minutes into the show. Seven songs took 70 minutes.
Which was far from a bad thing. They extended grooves that could have lasted all night. The rhythm section was never letting up, especially bassist Ian Peres bouncing around the stage and never missing a beat. Drummer Vin Steele, whose name perfectly describes his look, was locked in tight throughout the entire show as well.
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But as it is Stockdale's band, it was also his show Monday. He stalked around the stage with a sly smile on his face, throwing up his horns on the regular. "Tonight is the greatest night of your lives," he enticed the crowd, "A time to live out all of your fantasies. Love your brother, love your sister. Get it on." As the crowd ate up his words, they also lived out his actions, which is when the raucous part of the evening commenced.
And Stockdale wouldn't let anything stop him from being the front man that he is. He even broke a string on his (assumedly) one guitar, leaving it to the stage tech to fix while he jumped into the crowd at the barrier. And not just for a few seconds while the string was changed, for a couple of songs because why not, I guess.
The band even took a "smoke" break halfway through the set, after some generous fan in the front row graciously tossed a pair of joints and a lighter onstage. For about ten minutes, Stockdale and Steele puffed while Peres jokingly banged out Bob Marley's "Stir It Up" on his bass. "You paid good money to come see us do this," Stockdale joked as he took another toke; the crowd ate up every second of it.
But it was the raw energy and standout playing of the entire trio that really made the night. "Colossal" was just that; "California Queen" had the die-hards melting; "New Crown," the title track to the new record, fit right in with the old stuff, and "Joker & the Thief" sent everyone home wondering why they don't listen to Wolfmother more regularly.
For a Monday, this was the best show possible. They've got longevity if Stockdale can keep the band together. He must be somewhat difficult to work with as exposed by the amount of different band members that have played with Wolfmother. This current incarnation seem to enjoy the stage together which was evident in how together they were from start to finish.
It was a highly enjoyable blues and psychedelic-rock show, one that kept it simple without too much overproduction. Guitar. Bass. Drums. What else do you need?
Personal Bias: As a casual fan, I was one of those in the latter category. I was tired from a long day, and wasn't really in a show-going mood, but between their rocking and with the whiskey flowing, it made it much easier to stay alive during and after the set.
The Crowd: Third-generation Zep fans.
Overheard In the Crowd: From my good buddy, Space City Rock's Jason Smith: "$35 for a ticket and the dude only has one guitar?!"
Random Notebook Dump: My only gripe about the band is that they have a certain cheese factor onstage. Stockdale made weird faces and has that whole curly-'fro thing going on, while Peres and Steele both looked like extras from the Pirates of the Caribbean movie series. Once you got past that, though, they had no problem rocking your face off.
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