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Remember you're a Wombat

Heather Smith finds the LIPA trio mesmerising, yet strangely mesmerised themselves by the big Arena homecoming. Bless....<br><b>Pictures:</b> Mark McNulty

Published on November 25th 2008.

Remember you're a Wombat

It's already been one hell of a year for The Wombats. They started 2008 on the roof of St George's Hall with Ringo Starr, but the born-in-LIPA trio wanted to go out with a bang, and they did just that.

Friday's crazed Liverpool Arena crowd were treated to retro roller-skating, glitter-bomb explosions and a procession of pink and gold balloons to be punched around, waved manically or burst painfully close to the eardrum. The epic show pulled out all the stops to embody the band's bright, breezy, party-fuelled pop nature and gave the rowdy mob of loyal followers a rave to remember.

Lead singer Matthew 'Murph' Murphy announced: 'We're proper tourists us, can everyone just put their hands in the air for the camera? This might never happen again'

In a rollercoaster year of credible achievements - to which “euphoric homecoming gig” can officially be added - the graduates of Paul McCartney's “Fame” school have not only upstaged another Beatle before a crowd of tens of thousands, but sold out the majority of Carling Academy-scale venues nationwide, and become one of the biggest festival successes of the summer. Now you get the impression that The Wombats can't quite believe their luck.

Lead singer Matthew 'Murph' Murphy - who peculiarly resembles a young Ken Dodd - announced, in his well-to-do Woolton accent, “We're proper tourists us, can everyone just put their hands in the air for the camera? This might never happen again.” When positioning his lens toward the crowd, the 24-year-old looked genuinely, and endearingly, mesmerised. The Wombats did not see this arena gig as their new scale of venue, it was simply an unmissable opportunity whilst the fleeting first album hype was booming.

As you would expect, all 13 of A Guide to Love, Loss and Desperation’s utterly addictive tracks featured in the set list, which seamlessly introduced a few new songs. Seamless in the sense that album number two is shaping up to be an appendix of the debut; brilliant if the Bridget Jones chant-a-thon in Kill the Director has you wailing and waving like a lunatic, not so good if the band's

silly style and sardonic lyrics encourage steam to emerge from your ears.

Preston’s newest four-piece, Team Waterpolo, whose melodic indie poppings weren’t particularly distinctive, were durable, nonetheless, as a warm-up. A few more made it in from the bar to watch the Danish pop diamonds of this summer, Alphabeat, who had the crowd dancing, ready to party with The Wombats. The six-piece, who packed the Liverpool Carling Academy earlier in the year, were dripping with energy and enthusiasm and whether you liked it or not, Fascination was the song you couldn’t stop singing on the way home.

The headliners burst on to the stage with a quickened version of the super-high-pitched, harmonic album opener Tales of Girls, Boys and Marsupials, a clue of what was to come in the show if you like. The Love of girls, the Loss of girls and the Desperation for girls is what The Wombats debut is all about. Females of every calibre feature, from Little Miss Pipedream and Dr. Suzanne Mattox PHD to everybody’s favourite lady of the night Patricia the Stripper. At this point, two Lycra-clad pole dancers took the stage, the band revealing their clothes were only in consideration of the younger audience members.

But I was surprised at how few of the audience were actually that young, it wasn’t all white plimsolls and skinny jeans either; there was many an Ugg boot on show, quite a few stilettos even. The assorted crowd were well on song throughout and managed to overpower the vocal during an exhilarating version of Let's Dance to Joy Division.

I did wonder, however, whether a few sweaty sell outs in a smaller venue would have captured the magic moments a little better. When plastic lager-filled cups are launched at the stage at the arena, it can look a bit pathetic because of the scale of the place. If you throw a pint in the Carling Academy, with the low ceiling, you can soak a good section of the crowd knowing that despite the sighs and the smell of the stuff, they’ll be grateful on some level for the brief moment of refreshment.

But I don’t think the Wombat faithful took enough time for breath, never mind consider alternative venues. Interestingly, the marsupial was saved for the encore, where a gigantic inflated wombat was lowered in from above as the trio sprinted back on to the stage for two more songs, My Fist Wedding and Backfire at the Disco where the balloons glitter and roller skates brought the show to a joyous end. This arena gig was a big ask of The Wombats and one album in, they pulled a show out of the bag which they can be proud of if should they never have the opportunity again, although I’ve a sneaky suspicion that they will.

Verdict 8/10. For Wombataholics, Christmas came early

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