Wolfmother Not Loud Enough

When a band is as new and as hyped as Wolfmother, there are two factors that determine whether it will have lasting power. The first is live performance – can the band translate the energy of a hit record to the stage? The second is the all-important subsequent album.

This is not to say there haven’t been successful musicians with relatively unsuccessful second albums – Weezer, for example, has the ability to sell out large venues despite the debatably unsuccessful Pinkerton. But extended presence beyond the initial buildup of popularity is not always easily obtained, and relies heavily on the second and third albums.

Wolfmother easily tackled the first factor with their sold-out performance on Wednesday evening at the Paradise. The Australian rock trio — Andrew Stockdale, Chris Ross, and Miles Heskett — is from Sydney. The band’s instant popularity is reminiscent of mid-90’s boy bands – but don’t worry, you aren’t likely to see them performing choreographed dance moves anytime soon.

The three met and began playing together in 2000, released a an Australian chart-topping self-titled EP in September of 2004, traveled to Los Angeles in 2005 to work with producer Dave Sardy (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Oasis) and released their debut LP (also self-titled) in October of that year. The bands’ resemblance to rock icons Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin attracted attention from critics and fans alike, and Rolling Stone deemed them one of the “Bands to Watch” in 2006. Since then, Wolfmother has been touring heavily, including stops at the South By Southwest, Coachella and Sasquatch music festivals.

Judging by their performance Wednesday evening, touring is a smart career decision for the group. The Paradise was packed with a crowd that, surprisingly, seemed to be folks in their mid-20’s to late 30’s- perhaps Wolfmother’s 1970’s rock sound is beyond younger fans. The three curly-haired lads blasted through “White Unicorn,” “Woman,” and “Where Eagles Have Been,” with the elusive energy and excitement of a band with newly obtained popularity- it hasn’t gone to their heads yet and, with any hope, never will.

Yet they also have a sense of comfort with both the stage and their music, as though they’ve been touring together for years. Stockdale bopped his head back and forth while squealing out lyrics in decidedly Robert Plant-like form, as Ross bounced about the stage much to the fans’ delight.

The crowd drank in the music thirstily and, in the end, the lack of material was palpable. It should have stuck around to catch early versions of new songs, or even a cover or two, so it was slightly disappointing that Wolfmother retreated from the stage, having played all of their debut album. This makes the music critic in me nervous- Wolfmother has an obvious talent, but they won’t be able to survive on touring alone.

Even though their CD has been around since the fall, it’s likely to hold the same place this summer that Gorillaz and the Killers had last summer. But once the fall comes, the arrival (or absence) of new material will establish where their career will lead next, and if their performance Wednesday evening is an indicator that the potential for success is there.

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