It was an all English lineup as the trifecta of bands met in Pawtucket, Rhode Island for a reunion of sorts.
See, Morning Parade and The Wombats have toured together a few times and have become real close friends. And Lovelife, which features members of the former band Viva Brother, have played a few shows with each band as well. Another fun fact is that this was the second time playing a show in Rhode Island for all three bands.
Lovelife hit the stage first with the same slightly pretentious swagger as, but different sound than their previous identity Viva Brother used to. Lead singer, Lee Newell still carries on in his frontman ways, but now dons himself in an all-black suit. The new member, Ally Young, is the American addition to the band, which is why they’re reinventing themselves by way of Brooklyn (this was their first show out of New York as the new band). Their synth pop beats were mostly typical and a bit recycled, but like most synth music, held some interest and danceability. Not to keep harping on it, but Viva Brother’s sound had more potential than this reincarnation as Lovelife. At least with VB, their sound wasn’t so generic, not saying they’re bad, just a bit too predictable. They opened their set with Internet released single “Brave Face,” which was entertaining, as they do have a good stage presence. I couldn’t really tell you the setlist, but it all sort of blended together in a dance-y whirlwind that built up the excitement of the evening.
By the time Morning Parade took the stage, the open floor was mostly full, to my and the band’s excitement. Thankfully the show schedule was running late, since unfortunately people usually try to skip the opening acts at this venue. Having seen MP twice previous, I was more excited this time to see them with original guitarist Chad Thomas, who wasn’t on the past two US tours. Chad told me earlier in the night a few of his tricks and what to watch for in my anticipation.
They started off strong with potential third single “Under the Stars,” which a few people in the audience seemed to know and sing along with. What’s great about MP is that they deliver the energy right from the get go, they don’t give you any time to ease into it, you just have to dance. Another great thing is that they like to include older tracks into their set, like “Marble Attic,” which was released in the UK, but not in the US. Since this is one of their oldest songs as a band, it really shows off how together they are, and also gives bassist Phil Titus a shot at the vocals for a chorus.
“Blue Winter” continued the nonstop energy, from both the band and the crowd. The way the band feeds off of the audience until everyone is dancing and moving around is exhilarating. Lead singer, Steve Sparrow’s vocals shine so bright in this song as he hits those raw falsetto notes of “winter.” The transition into “Carousel” brought a driving drumbeat that caused an uproar in the crowd, to which Sparrow addressed as “rowdy for a Wednesday night.” His statement was true, and mostly to their doing.
My personal favorite track and unspoken second single, “Us & Ourselves” followed, and blended and flowed perfectly. The harmonies that this band produces are so powerful, and on full blast in this song. So good that earlier Chad and I joked that in 20 years when they’ve been around and back, they could make an a cappella album. For even more crowd interaction, Sparrow subbed in “around the streets of Pawtucket” which the crowd ate up.
Another unreleased in the US track “A&E” started the crowd jumping which continued into obvious crowd favorite “Headlights.” MP’s go to closer “Born Alone” started soft and sweet and grew into an all-out raucous of whirring guitars, pounding keys, and heavy drums which left a bittersweet realization that their set was over.
I listened to the crowd continue to reel about how good they were and overheard the group in front of me say they’d never really listened to Morning Parade before, but now they’re in love. I’d chalk that as a win. My only complaint with the set was that it wasn’t long enough. I’m ready for that headline tour now, boys.
Still running really behind schedule, the original set times were delayed by probably 30/45 minutes. However, this didn’t stop anyone in the audience (and there was a wide range of ages), as the excitement levels were still almost to the ceiling (bravo, Wednesday night troopers). Whenever any member of The Wombats peeked out, bloodcurdling screams were heard across the room. I look back at my notes and see “teenage girls are hilarious,” but hey, sometimes they make for the best audiences, and slightly ashamed, I was there once.
By the time The Wombats took the stage at around 11:05, the crowd was bursting with anticipation. From lead singer Matthew Murphy’s leopard print shoes and his bright baby blue flower print guitar, to bassist Tord Øverland-Knudsen’s “I love to bang” drum kit shirt, and all of their long and wild hair, everything about them indicated that fun is what they stand for.
“Our Perfect Disease” rang through and the energy levels were extremely high on both ends. Tord started the clapping along early, which continued into “Kill the Director” and shouts of “this is no Bridget Jones.” Every chance the audience got was a massive sing-a-long, much like following tracks “Girls/Fast Cars” and “Party In A Forest (Where’s Laura?).”
Murphy joked around introducing the next song “Patricia the Stripper” saying, “This is a song about my mum.” With more crowd interaction, he suggested that everyone dance with the person next to them for “Schumacher the Champagne,” to which the first few rows complied. Look at that, The Wombats not only get you to dance, but they make you new friends too!
One sentence needs to be dedicated to the fact that Tord literally did not stop moving the entire show, making his way all the way across the stage multiple times (occasionally, comically bumping into Murphy) and this held especially true during crowd (and my) favorite “Techno Fan.” The lyrics “shut up and move with me, move with me, or, or get out of my face” never seemed so appropriate.
Soft strums introduced “Here Comes the Anxiety” before a killer drum beat by Dan Haggis carried it to the end. Continuing the fun, Murphy introduced “1996” as “My Heart Will Go On, by Celine Dion” which won massive appraisal. The silliness ensued when he tried to embarrass their tour manager Sarah by singing love ballad (and B Side) “Valentine” to her, in proclamation of their unrequited love.
A little break to catch their breaths occurred and Haggis mentioned that “aluminium” is a funny word and Americans say it wrong, and that his dad says “barth” instead of “bath.” The random and personal approach to the crowd was very endearing and refreshing. Then with an intro of, “we’re available for weddings, birthdays, and funerals,” “Little Miss Pipedream” continued the lovey-dovey segment of the show.
Joking that if anyone wasn’t asleep, they would be after “Elevator Jazz,” they picked it back up with a one-two punch and “Jump Into the Fog” followed by “Moving to New York” and an instrumental jam session, all major pleasers and dance floor winners.
“My First Wedding” brought Murphy to the front of the stage, outstretching a microphone directly over everyone’s heads to sing rip-roaring chant, “She’s not that beautiful.” With another instrumental jam and a little bit of a tease on keys, they played “Tokyo” as the last song of the set, which brought so many screams you would have gone deaf if you weren’t somewhat expecting it.
By the time the encore came on, it was probably 12:25, and I’m not too sure what the curfew is at this venue, but judging from the events that happened, I’m guessing 12:30. “Anti-D” kicked off the encore, and by this point, the crowd was in hysterics with happiness. Sometime during what is probably the band’s biggest breaking hit, “Let’s Dance to Joy Division,” the club shut the PAs off. Tord and Murphy were busy running around the audience, but when they returned to the stage, a slightly disgruntled Murphy ripped out his in ears and yelled, “fuck them, we’ll use our amps” before breaking into a full-on, no stops, end of set instrumental bash as he ran over to crank his amp even louder.
As if their music isn’t catchy, fun, slightly scummy, and delicious Britpop rock enough, the intensity that this three piece band has on stage and the way they interact with the audience are even more reasons why they are so underrated in America. If you ever get a chance to see them (note: they have a bunch more tour dates after this one), do it, especially in small, super personal clubs like the one I was at. You will rarely ever dance, laugh, and scream/sing more than you will at this show. The Wombats will keep you on your feet, and on your toes, and you really don’t want to put off seeing them much longer.