Despite the infighting and drama shadowing Aussie rockers Wolfmother in recent years, the band's fiery spirit is burning brightly again -- at least if Wednesday night's roar through the Roxy Theatre on Hollywood's Sunset Strip is any indication.
Singer-guitarist Andrew Stockdale, surrounded by three new mates after 2008's acrimonious departure of bassist/keyboardist Chris Ross and drummer Myles Heskett, ripped through seven songs in 45 minutes during a performance that could have approached transcendent if the circumstances had been a bit more favorable to the quartet's scuzzy, retro metal.
The surprise gig was a free dinnertime affair, and the crowd was culled from e-mail responses to a last-minute blast on Wolfmother's website. The occasion? The filming of a yet-to-be-named video series debuting next month on Yahoo! Music. Not exactly an ideal setting for the raucous debauchery that the band's psych-fueled rumble can incite.
To his credit, Stockdale never hammed it up for any of the numerous cameras while he rocked the faithful -- some of whom flung glitter toward the stage. (Now what would Ozzy say to that?) As he previously showed at two southern California outings last weekend -- KROQ's Epicenter Festival and another secret show at the Silver Lake flamenco hangout El Cid -- the 33-year-old is dead on his game.
With second guitarist Aidan Nemeth content to play from the wings, Stockdale and bassist/keyboardist Ian Peres brought their formidable 'fros to the fore, delivering almost mechanically precise licks on "Back Round" and "Cosmic Egg," the title track to the band's second album, produced by Alan Moulder (My Bloody Valentine, Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins), to be released October 13.
Fueled by the mountain-man drumming of Dave Atkins, the set peaked with the Grammy-winning "Woman," from 2005's self-titled debut, which has sold more than a million copies worldwide. All well and good for a song worthy of Guitar Hero, but Wolfmother's broader dynamic revealed itself best on new track "California Queen," which alternately simmered and blistered in front of a small ocean of bobbing heads and waving arms.
The only pause in the sonic barrage arrived when Stockdale apologetically took a short break to let the film crew regroup. But there were none of the disruptive "do-overs" that the crowd had been warned might occur.
For closer "White Unicorn," the Zeppelin-esque first-album highlight, Stockdale leaped into the crowd as the song crescendoed and exploded in a tsunami of distortion and feedback.
In times past, when metal mongers reigned as kings on the Sunset Strip, it might have been a moment to cherish. On this night, though, it was merely the dinner party's appetizer.
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