[19 December 2007]
Wolfmother in concert is like a déjà vu slideshow of rock music’s past. The first image brought to mind is of Cream, because this Australian band is a true power trio, much like Eric Clapton’s old group. Vocalist/ guitarist Andrew Stockdale even has a big, curly mop of hair atop his had—not unlike Clapton’s white afro at the time. Stockdale is also quite the guitarist; one able to break into hard rocking, six-string jams.
One also imagines the image of T.Rex. Stockdale’s voice often breaks into a Mark Bolan-y quiver whenever the music’s spirit moves him. Furthermore, there is even a touch of early T.Rex lyrical mysticism in tracks like “White Unicorn” and “Witchcraft”. We shouldn’t forget about Led Zeppelin either, as they wrote some of the most indecipherably mystical lyrics of all time. Yet Stockdale also likes to simply boogie a bit, just like T.Rex used to do toward the end of its run, as well as conjure up Led Zeppelin’s sludgy hard rock.
The last slide in our mental presentation is The White Stripes. The way Stockdale takes command of the stage and forces audiences to follow wherever he leads is extremely Jack White-esh. This is also a guitar band, don’t forget, much like Mr. White’s Stripes and Stockdale’s six-string phrasing falls into a particularly Jack White mode during “Colossal” where vocally he comes off like a Southern preacher on a rant.
This concert DVD was filmed at The Hordern in Sydney, Australia, and while Stockdale is the undeniable pack leader, he is also given hefty support from drummer Myles Heskett and especially bassist/ organist Chris Ross. When Ross isn’t laying down heavy bass lines, he’s flying atop his keyboard, which swings around on a pivot like a playground toy. Ross is also the band member that gives Wolfmother much of its progressive rock vibe. This feel is especially apparent during “Minds Eye”, which features over eleven minutes of guitar-keyboard jamming.
Personally, I prefer the act’s more straightforward hard rock tracks, like “Woman”. It’s a sort of Black Sabbath, simple caveman pound fest and the group wonderfully hammers it home in front of its home country crowd. Yet Stockdale reveals an entirely different side of his musical personality via “Vagabound”. This one features folk picking and a reflective lyric about loneliness. So like the best rockers, Stockdale is a complicated soul.
In addition to the main 12-song Hordern set, this disc also includes a performance of “Joker & the Thief” from The Aria Awards Ceremony, Sydney, Australia, 2006. Then there are two live performances from a Brixton Academy show in London, UK. Other extras include videos for “Joker & the Thief”, “White Unicorn”, “Love Train”, “Minds Eye”, and “Woman”. Of these clips, “Love Train” is the most revelatory as it shows a far more funky side of the band. Watch it back-to-back with the live version, and you’ll hear and see exactly what I mean.
For fans of rock history—those who can spot many of Wolfmother’s obvious artistic inspirations—this live DVD offers plenty of imitatively familiar fun. And it’s too soon to say Wolfmother is as great as their forefathers. The band performs wonderful likenesses, but except for hits like “Woman”, little of the group’s unique personality comes through via the music – at least not yet.
This may be because the act is still trying to live out too many different personalities at the same time. It’s hard to be both The White Stripes and Yes (an act I particularly despise) simultaneously, but I get the feeling they’re attempting to do the impossible when they mix and match alternative rock with ‘70s progressive styling. Wolves are strong and smart creatures, but few wolves can survive such an oddly matched experiment.
Consider Please Experience Wolfmother Live as Wolfmother, the formative years. I imagine this will be a different – and better – band five to ten years down the road. No doubt, these musicians have the ability to do almost anything they put their minds to. And if they focus more on The White Stripes and less on Yes, in my humble opinion, we’ll all be the better for it.