Wolfmother - live set at Carling Academy, Newcastle
Australian power-trio Wolfmother are from Australia. I know this, because a) if they were from anywhere else the oft-applied label "Australian power-trio" would probably be somewhat misleading, and b) because at the time of writing I seem to be one of the apparently few Brits who have actually even heard of them.
If of course I'd arrived at the Carling Academy on Friday night uninformed of this all-but-essential piece of Wolfmother trivia it probably wouldn't have taken too long to work it out; for a start, the bunch of drunken idiots bellowing the Home and Away theme tune ad nauseam in the foyer were presumably doing so for a reason. Moreover, this reason almost certainly shared its origins with those of the equally hilarious kangaroo-related remarks issuing forth from the sizable queue freezing its collective lovely-bits off on the street outside.
So it's Friday night, it's bloody snowing, and by the time Wolfmother take to the stage at midnight that horrible, soul-destroying affliction that characterises the diabolical void between Monday and Friday (or "sobriety", as it is known among the medical fraternity) was no longer in evidence anywhere in the building. And the unspoken reason for resorting to the relatively safe ground of mindless Aussie stereotypes? Well, basically it comes down to the fact that very few of the inebriated masses piling into the Carling Academy have the faintest idea what Wolfmother actually sound like.
Looking at their album artwork, the impressive creation of legendary fantasy artist Frank Frazetta, the uninitiated could be forgiven for expecting some sort of synth-based, power-ballad-playing Asia tribute-band.
Wolfmother transpire to be nothing of the sort.
Unlike many bands described as 'progressive', a term that might as well be the kiss of death for an alt. rock outfit's credibility these days, with Wolfmother the originality and inventiveness of their music does not come at the expense of a good, heavy rock song, and this quality comes across superbly in their live set.
As anyone who was there on Friday night will confirm, Wolfmother are without a doubt the tightest band ever to grace the Academy stage, or probably any stage for that matter. None of your "excuse us while we all rely heavily on constantly looking at our drummer" shenanigans that often characterise bands with such technically complex material; on the contrary, the Wolfies effortlessly pull off an awesome show, albeit a relatively short one at just over three quarters of an hour, brimming with technical brilliance and executed with energy, personality and a smattering of borderline-insanity.
The phrase 'power trio' (see above for details) is an apt one to describe Wolfmother but with an implicit understanding that "power" must be the operative word here. While they might look like a run-of-the-mill indie band they rock like a bastard and get their entire audience head-banging away uncontrollably for the duration of the set. This is a not unremarkable feat considering maybe only ten per cent of the crowd, if that, had turned out specifically to see them (figures estimated from the number of Wolfmother T-shirts in evidence).
Sporting an afro the size of a small planet, vocalist Andrew Stockdale is about as rock'n'roll as they come, his high-pitched, Geddy Lee-style vocals slicing through the barrage of overdriven power-chords, spot-on drumming and...er....Hammond organ? Yes, it's an interesting mix, co-conspirator Myles Hesketh bouncing between bass and keyboard duties like an ADD-afflicted orangutan on speedballs, to complete their unusual yet strangely compelling persona.
Exactly what Wolfmother are is a difficult one to put your finger on, as their very existence laughs in the face of any remaining stereotypes of what a rock band should be, managing to fall somewhere just outside the 'metal' bracket whilst farting defiantly in the general direction of indie mediocrity. Stockdale once described his band's sound as "the playfulness of Earth Wind and Fire with the intensity of Black Flag" – throw in some Black Sabbath, a little Muse, a smidgen of early Faith No More, mix it all up with a bit of Floyd-inspired weirdness, down-tune to D, crank it up to eleven and I think you're just about there.
This is rock'n'roll alright, there's no doubt about that, but with a new twist. Big, epic, powerful, and as heavy as God in a particularly large bulldozer their sound is almost trancey in places, in that it's music that'll draw you in, hold you in its thrall while it fucks with your brain, then spit you out with your head thumping, asking "um...what...what just happened here?"
As they demonstrate at Revolution tonight, Wolfmother are to 21st century heavy rock what bands like Asia were to 80's hair-metal: progressive in the true sense of the word, taking a genre, overdoing it, and in doing so taking it to the next level thus raising the bar for the incoming generation of rock bands. As such, many who saw Wolfmother at the Academy, myself included, will await with anticipation a meteoric rise to global superstardom for these boys, and with it a swift and speedy return to these shores.