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Wolfmother at Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Vancouver

Wolfmother concert photo

Wolfmother at Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Nov 21 2009. Jade Dempsey photo

Review and photos—Wolfmother at Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Vancouver, Nov 21 2009

- review by Tom McSorley/photos by Jade Dempsey

As I rushed to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre last night, dodging the newly formed river that was Homer Street in downtown Vancouver, I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of performance I was going to get from the re-assembled Wolfmother.

A quick update for those keeping score: after citing “irreconcilable differences,” bassist Myles Heskitt and drummer Chris Ross left the band and frontman Andrew Stockdale at what some consider the height of the trio’s initial popularity.

Undeterred, Stockdale recruited drummer Dave Atkins, bassist/keyboardist Ian Peres, and an additional guitarist in Aidan Nemeth. What followed was the sophomore offering entitled Cosmic Egg by the newly minted quartet from Australia.

I arrived in time to catch the last two-thirds of the set by opener Heartless Bastards, a heavy garage band from Ohio. Fronted by the tiny Erika Wennerstrom, the four-piece pounded out layered guitar riffs over powerful, scratchy vocals.

The slender 27-year-old Wennerstrom’s voice sounded amazingly big in the half-empty auditorium. and the songs brought to mind another Ohio band, the Black Keys, but with a little more Led Zeppelin. Clearly, this band is on its way up, and I doubt Wennerstrom will have to continue slinging drinks on the side as the band’s Myspace page indicates.

Between bands, I surveyed the audience that had quickly packed the theater. Flannels next to Ed Hardy sequins, Jimmy Choos and Chucks, tie-dyed skinny jeans flanking triple xl fubu’s – it was a sight to see and a credit to the multi-layered styles within our fair city. Sadly, my mustache was trumped by a spectacular ode to Tom Selleck that was glory to behold.

Cue house lights and drop the enormous Wolfmother banner, and away we go. The quartet immediately ripped into “Dimension” off the first Wolfmother album, a song which ironically acted as a metaphor for the entire set. Fans flooded the area in front of the stage, which turned into a cramped, feverish moshpit, the likes of which the staid old theatre doesn’t often see.

Stockdale’s wailing, high-pitched voice fueled the fire as the room spun and buzzed with the pulsating guitar rifts his group has become know for. Doing double duty on both bass and keyboard, Ian Peres was a monster. He aggressively transitioned from one instrument to another, jumping and hammering out the core melodies without flaw. Drummer Dave Atkins hit his peak with a bone-crushing solo midway through the highly popular “White Unicorn”. I believe I counted six broken drumsticks.

The show stealer was the lead singer himself. As Stockdale grinned devilishly at the crowd, it became clear why he is the band. His psychedelic riffs and Ozzie Osbourne-era Black Sabbath-esque vocals are the driving force behind this rock juggernaut – without his swagger and abilities, the rest of Wolfmother are just pups.

A set-closing “Joker and the Thief” brought the hyped crowd onto the stage to rock out face to face with the band. A Stockdale quote from earlier in the evening described the mayhem best: “We came here to get wild and to get loose, you better do the same.”

Well we did just that, as nobody denies Australia’s most popular afro.

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