Live Music + Gig Reviews

Wolfmother @ KOKO, London

26 April 2006

You could be forgiven, listening to the sheer pomposity ofWolfmother’s eponymous album, released in the UK this week, thatWolfmother is a band that likes excess – after all, aren’t guitarsolos, double speed keyboard interludes, histrionic vocals andapocalyptic finales supposed to equal 40-piece drum kits, double neckedguitars and amps that turn all the way up to 11?

Which is why I found it somewhat surprising to see just three bandmembers shuffle onstage and launch into opening track Dimension. Wherewas the caped keyboard player, trio of guitarists and entourage ofsmall hobbits that surely accompany prog rockers of Wolfmother’silk?

Okay, I jest and clearly Wolfmother are able to realise theirmusical ambitions in the pared down trio format. On record that is.Live, however, I couldn’t help feel that their stage presence and soundwas somewhat lacking in comparison. Sure, the band’s loud, but singerand (sole) guitarist Andrew Stockdale is required to be bothPage and Plant, something which is almost impossible fortwo people to replicate, let alone one.

Yes, he’s got the shock ofbubble curls, the Geddy Lee-timbred vocal cords and more thanadequate axe-wielding capabilities but he lacks the preening narcissismthat the likes of Justin Hawkins have onstage, and I couldn’thelp but miss another guitarist to flesh out the sound. Occasionallybassist Chris Ross would turn to the keyboards to do exactly that -however, in doing so, sacrificed his bass playing in the process.

That said, there were a number of pure rock moments: the debauchedletchery of Woman has the spirit of classic Led Zeppelin, thecolossal Colossal is Black Sabbath meets stoner rock, and theunashamed pomposity of Mind’s Eye is admirable in its execution.However, there’s also a fair amount of filler, especially thetune-free, ahem, ‘soundscapes’ which permeated some of the song’sintros. Come on guys, you can do better than that.

The audience (seemingly largely made up of fellow Aussies – or wasthat just by the downstairs bar?) gave a nonetheless ecstatic receptionand the distinct impression that Wolfmother’s brand of retro prog isvery much in the ascent. Let’s hope they can ride out the current hypeand develop into the calibre of live act from the bands whom they soobviously take their cue.

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