O2 Guildhall, Southampton


It may be a school night but I for one wasn’t gonna pass up the opportunity to see one of Australia’s finest exponents of Rock on this tour, especially having missed them last time around some 8 years ago or more. We arrive early and take our place down the front for tour support Electric Citizen. This Ohio 5-piece are also of the same genre. However, they don’t blow me away with quite the excitement of the headliners. Their brand of 70’s-inspired Rock I’m afraid is totally lost on this reviewer. The component parts are all there, it’s just crying out for a decent vocal. The huge drums a la (Nate) and brooding bass (Randy) carry well in a large, half-full room as this. But Laura (vox) seems to want to just holler wildly, rather than actually sing. What lyrics there may be are totally unintelligible. They are a cross between something one would hear in a church or an off-key Goth band. However, a few punters around me are head banging and nodding so I am in the minority. Ross (guitars) is head banging almost throughout while shoegazing almost the entire set, which in itself is some feat. Despite their immaculate attire their stage presence is at best statuesque, save for drummer Nate who at least makes an effort. His gurning and all round energy remind me of a cross between Dave Grohl and Animal from the Muppets!

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On their penultimate song they actually open up a little, and we at last hear lyrics. I just wished they’d opened the set with this song as it’s their best so far. Laura moves around a little and is more animated, as is the keyboard player whose name escapes me. They play their last song and do “the big sell”. They garner decent applause and I wish them well.

And so to the headliners. Wolfmother are back in Southampton almost a decade after their last appearance here. Despite a few lineup changes, mainstay Andrew Stockdale is back with a couple of new faces. One by one the 3 of them take to the stage. Andrew hasn’t changed a bit, still sporting a fine afro cut and still holding his guitar high. Live drummer Alex is energetic from the start while multi-instrumentalist Ian (bass/keys) steals the show almost throughout. They open in spectacular style with latest single “Victorious”. The lighting is minimal and the backdrop striking, yet the music speaks for itself – Wolfmother are back! They follow this with the brilliant “New Moon Rising” and the younger members of this audience go wild. Andrew’s distinct vocal kicks into life while those subtle drums sit nicely behind the noodly picking. With this crowd now warmed up only one song can possibly follow. ‘Woman’ comes next and the chunky riffs haven’t dated, tonight it sounds as huge as ever. Ian is chief shapeshifter throughout and all round star as he covers every inch of the stage. I have to admit, I expected to be deafened tonight but thankfully the soundman has pitched it perfectly.

They stay with the powerful and deliver a truly wild “Apple Tree”. The rasping bass is bettered only by the phrenetic hitting and Andrew’s complicated vocal. It’s a stomper of a track which gets the nod of approval from the headbangers. Tonight’s set is largely culled from the first 2 albums so no complaints here. “White Unicorn” shows their influences worn heavily on their sleeves (70’s Rock behemoths). Heavy, chunky riffs and a strong vocal with a chiming middle 8. “White Feather” stays in the same vein. However, midway through the song Andrew realises he has the wrong guitar. He promptly stops mid-song, changes over and they restart. Andrew is smiling like the proverbial cheshire cat-it’s an amusing moment I’ll put down to first (tour) date nerves! “California Queen” sees Alex’s energetic hitting in full flow behind Andrew’s now trademark squeal. At times though it’s just great watching Ian in action as he strums the bass while playing the keyboard.

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Another newbie “Gypsy Caravan” is well received before they head back to debut album opener “Dimension”. The huge drums and overall 70’s Rock feel hark back to a bygone era, yet retaining enough uniqueness to call it their own. The riffs once again are huge and the audience lap it up. “Love Train” sees Andrew really stretch his vocal while “Mind’s Eye” allows us all to catch our respective breaths. It’s sung with real emotion as he really reaches for the high notes. The keys give that whole Psychedelic feel to the song with Ian once again show-stealing, a set highlight. “Pretty Peggy” precedes the quite excellent “Pyramid”. It’s an absolute stomper of a number that sees the room really jumping. Chunky guitars battle it out with some mesmerising keys and a noodly bridge. The bass is subtle behind those big riffs which noodle their way to the song ending. Andrew, however, maintains his high-held guitar stance throughout as this song ends their main set.

They return for a 3 song encore, starting with “Vagabond”. Andrew is still smiling as he starts playing, clearly enjoying himself. “Colossal” soon follows which is simply colossal! Handclaps and head banging are in evidence, encouraged by the band throughout. Andrew then says “we’ll be back and we won’t leave it 8 years next time”! I genuinely hope that’s the case as this audience are still right with them after all these years. They end on a high with “Joker And The Thief” which is immense. The big keys-led intro gets everyone moving before those chunky chords kick in for the last time this evening. Tonight has been an enjoyable trip down memory lane, largely taken from the first 2 albums. Clearly there’s more to come from Wolfmother as evidenced in the few newer tracks played tonight. I just hope they capitalise on this. They clearly still have an audience so it will be interesting to see where they go after this tour.

New Moon Rising
Apple Tree
The Love That You Give
White Unicorn
White Feather
California Queen
How Many Times
Gypsy Caravan
The Simple Life
Love Train
Mind’s Eye
Pretty Peggy
Joker & the Thief


Words by Ross A. Ferrone
Pictures by Jon Musselwhite.

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