Photos by Kelsey Winterkorn
Entering the Fox Theater in Oakland is always an experience in itself, and tonight was no different and tonight was Wolfmother, a band compared to the likes of Led Zeppelin and AC/DC. Touring on the release of their second and latest album, Cosmic Egg, they had crossed the country and we were to be their second to last stop before they headed back to their home base in Sydney, Australia. The audience knew they were in for some face melting rock and roll.
Opening for Wolfmother were two bands, all traveling with Wolfmother from the beginning of the tour. The first opener was thenewno2, from London; an alt-rock band. They put on a good show; heavy on the noise and distortion as most alt-rock is. Then The Heartless Bastards, a homegrown garage rock band from Cincinnati, they have found their voice as of late. Their sound is expansive coming off of their latest release, The Mountain, lead singer Erika Wennerstrom really put all of herself into the performance. It was very impressive that their sound is so diverse and has so much range. It wasn’t just low-fi rock, but very refined and managed songs; a well put together set and a great way to open up for Wolfmother.
From the moment Wolfmother took the stage they had the crowds full attention. They didn’t have an over the top light show, but what lights they did use were completely in sync with front man Andrew Stockdale’s ripping falsetto. His piercing voice reminiscent of a cross between Robert Plant and Jack White. At one point showing his range by going into a lower octave for a portion the performance. The band’s movements were astonishing. Ian Peres, the bassist and keyboardist for the band, with the spirit of a shaman doing some sort of tripped out rain dance, would move from his feet to his knees; jumping and lunging in all directions.
Dave Atkins, their drummer was true to form as a rock drummer. Being compared to Led Zeppelin, it must be difficult for Atkins to embrace the big shoes that John Paul Jones left behind but he started out each song with a mellow high hat or a rumbling bass beat, building and building with Peres on the keys and Stockdale raising his hands to the sky. As if asking for more and more energy from the psychedelic rock gods, they would bust into a song from these intense intro’s. It was Atkin’s well put together balance of cymbal and snare that kept the room pounding and the songs moving in whatever direction they took. On more than one occasion Stockdale would climb up to the drummer’s perch and launch off in rock and roll fashion, with his guitar clutched in hand, he’d split his legs in midair; always the showman.
The rhythm guitarist in the band is Aidan Nemeth and he is a perfect rhythm man for the job. Always consistent, heavy on the reverb and clipping the amplifier on multiple occasions. His distorted approach to laying down a background suitable for Stockdale to solo over was mind-blowing and moving. And moving is just what the crowd was doing. From up in the balcony one could see the seething pile of die hard fans running and jumping, bouncing off of each other and audience members crowd surfing from one end of the floor to the other, only to be plucked off the top of the pile by security to return and do it again.
Stockdale encouraged this raucous behavior, at one time saying: “Let’s blow this joint, it took 40 years for them to renovate and were gonna tear it down in one night.” The crowd reacted as expected.
“Woman” off of their self-titled release was one of the show’s highlights. It featured a large solo in the middle where Stockdale approached the edge of the stage and with he head lowered, so all one could see was his massive hair, as he plucked out one of the tightest lead guitar riffs of the night. The band also showcased the first single from their new album called “New Moon Rising”. Beginning with guitar distortion, it then went into a pounding drum beat, where Stockdale’s lyrics shot through the entire room. Very catchy, yet so unique.
The last song of the night was their epic concert piece, “Joker and The Thief.” This song starts with an intense rhythmic looping guitar riff, and then, like an egg cracking on the floor, it spills out as Stockdale belts out the story. By far the most well known and best received of their songs, idt ended with bassist Peres hitting the keyboard and simultaneously playing bass, while Stockdale stood on top of his electric guitar strumming the strings with his leather boots.
This quartet knows how to write a good rock song and perform a loud and entertaining rock show. Wolfmother was incredibly impressive and more than ready for super-stardom.