Compare the Wolfmother of 2009 to, well, whatever they were when they came here last and you’ll pick up on some obvious differences: what once was three is now four. Andrew Stockdale remains. He’s the skinny singing one who initially comes across as a much more brunette Carrot Top (though he’s 100% less annoying). Before, they made plenty of rock noise on their own and plenty of the old rockers edged out the kids at In The Venue; they’d come to pay respect to a band that could pull off that retro rock Black Sabbath sound without sounding like they were a tribute act. At The Depot Tuesday night, well, they still got plenty of that crazy excited audience, as young as they were old, but they were just more than they once were. A lot of that had to do with the guy on the keys. I’ll likely get his name wrong to recount it here, but just know this: for all of that loudness Stockdale can coax out of his guitar and microphone, his newish keyboards guy can absolutely match in energy. It’s not often you get a guy banging on keys as he headbangs (and he’s got the Duritz dreds atop his head to get away with that, too). He even got on top of his keys when the occasion called (and it did, it really did). It’s as beautiful a thing to watch as it is to listen to.
On a personal note, I shall never tire of songs like “Woman” (nor the ample jams they choose to add to it) or “The Joker & The Thief” or even a speedy, scratchy tear through “Apple Tree,” a take that sounded like it borrowed more from Jack White than it did Robert Plant. That said, after hearing new songs from the latest one out the gate, tunes like “New Moon Rising” and “Sundial,” their new album just made it on to my BUY list. I didn’t really have much of a choice.
And it’s gotta be said that it pays to have a band that plays into all the old gestures and practices that other bands aren’t so accustomed to doing anymore. A cheering paying audience wants to love a band that works so hard on stage, so falling into them for some old-fashioned touching is warranted, right? Jumping into outstretched arms with your guitar after your finale pretty much seals the deal, yeah? And guitarists jumped off things, drum sticks were thrown and largely caught and, well, that list goes on plenty long. It was a rock show, through and through, and losing some hearing was the price I couldn’t help but pay to receive all they had to give. Sounds so communal, doesn’t it? Maybe it was a lot about love. Maybe. So be it. God bless the rockers Down Under already.
Heartless Bastards opened the show, led by the very pretty, powerful and fearless Erika Wennerstrom. Here just a few months ago along with the Avetts, it’s nice to have them back around, if only to bask in the powerful instrument that is Erika’s voice. She seems to prove, song after blessed song, that she’s always giving all she has to give, no matter what song her band seems to land on in their growing, trusted catalog. An audience craves a singer who refuses to call it in, someone still hungry a few albums into her career. She’s got that. She proved it. And, as long as we’re comparing the old to the new in this piece, I may as well say it: seeing her in a wail-off with the late Janis Joplin would be a blessed sight to behold. If I had my Doc Watson and a time machine, I’d go about selling tickets to that event, too. It’s good to dream