As I stood outside Park West a few days ago, I tried to find ways to dissociate from my body to avoid freezing. I had arrived fifteen minutes before doors opened, but they were delayed for reasons unknown and the temperature was lingering in the single digits. I was eavesdropping on the conversation behind me in which a nice young man gave his girlfriend his jacket because she had decided to dress for a concert, not the bitter cold.
They’d started chatting to a woman, I believe her name was Kelsey, about The Wombats and how this was their first time seeing the band. This was my first time seeing them as well, and Kelsey let me know that the last few times they played Chicago, they’ve been at this same venue. That’s smart, I thought. Take the sellout and don’t risk playing to some empty seats at a bigger venue.
I’ve been a fan of The Wombats since I first heard them back in 2008 on a compilation disc of the NME Awards. The collection included a bunch of great bands doing covers-Manic Street Preachers doing “Umbrella” by Rihanna, The Kooks playing “Young Folks” by Peter Bjorn & John, Dev Hynes (as Lightspeed Champion) doing a version of Amy Winehouse’s “Back To Black,” and of course The Wombats with a fun rendition of “Bleeding Love” by Leona Lewis.
I’m not sure why I waited 15 years to see them play live, but I’m glad my first concert of 2022 was a band with whom I have a long history. That history wasn’t paid much reverence, with about half the show spent covering their latest album Fix Yourself, Not The World. It’s hard to complain when the new songs sound so good live. “Ready For The High” and “Everything I Love Is Going To Die” were definitely highlights. There’s just something about that instant reaction when the crowd recognizes a song like “Kill The Director” that brings an extra level of excitement.
They did go back to their first album for a few songs, so my nostalgia itch definitely got scratched. And they were more chatty than I expected (not sure why I thought they wouldn’t be). When they talked about the new album and its many accolades, they joked that the Oscar nomination was a bit of a surprise (Academy Award nominations not out yet, maybe they meant BAFTAs). That led Matt Murphy to say that Dan had been nominated for an Emmy, to which Dan replied “No that was an enema.” It was a delightful moment that put their joy of playing in front of an audience on full display.
The Wombats have discovered, on their new album, a perfect blend of rock and dance that guaranteed no one could stand still during their set. They’ve been hitting the same 20 songs every night so far, but they show no signs that they’re tiring of them. This was a very fun show to kick off the year and got me very excited to go out and see many more.
Now, I do feel like I need to apologize for the lack of variety in these pictures below. I had a perfect spot for the opening band, Clubhouse. But when they started moving equipment, Murph’s setup was placed right in front of me. By that time the venue was packed and I didn’t want to be a jerk and ask people to move so that I could get a better shot. I think they came out ok, but they’re all kind of the same.