In recent months, mainstream rock has been flooded with a brand of classic rock-influenced bands. Groups like The Darkness and The Raconteurs have been sweeping radio stations around the world, bringing that old flair to mop-headed high school students everywhere.
Australian band Wolfmother is another result of this trend. Its Nov. 21 show at the Electric Factory brought in an interesting mix of people – from the fresh, naive pre-teens without much musical background to the shaggy, motorcycle-jacketed men and women old enough to be their parents.
The show was opened by indie-rockers Silversun Pickups, hailing from Los Angeles. This four-piece came on with the confidence of a 15-year-old boy on his first date. With hunched shoulders and a rigid posture, the singer/ guitarist
bellowed out a few mediocre rock songs. The backing of a bassist and drummer, accompanied by an unnecessary keyboard player who spent more time hammering away at his mixing board, added an uncomfortable buzzing and whining background to the mix.
Following this decent, yet well-attempted act was the Washington, D.C., trio Dead Meadow.
These guys took the stage with far more finesse than the prior act, complete with the front man casually puffing a cigarette, openly defying the city’s recent smoking ban.
As Dead Meadow launched into a heavy, driving song reminiscent of early Steppenwolf – extremely fuzzed out, heavy psychedelic rock for the musically inept – the stage and the crowd were hazed over in several varieties of green smoke, a very appropriate atmosphere indeed.
This band demonstrated an amazing level of synergy, accumulating to a sum far greater than that of their combined efforts. Each song started with a thick, droning vocal melody over a steady riff, which ultimately built up to an amazing crescendo of whammy-bar soloing and raw power unheard on most of today’s radio dials.
The real crime of the evening was the fact that most of the people in the audience seemed too concerned with hearing a simple,three minute pop-rock song that could be sung along to on the radio.
Therefore, Dead Meadow did not receive the response that they deserved, and left many pre-pubescent rockers antsy and uncomfortable.
Any discomfort felt by Wolfmother fans after Dead Meadow’s set vanished as the lights went down, signaling the start of Wolfmother’s set. The band instantly got the crowd roaring as they ripped through their hit single “Dimension.”
For many of the older, well-rounded rock fans, this song was so similar to the sound of Ozzy-era Black Sabbath. One might think the singer was Ozzy’s son. Adorning a huge afro and a tight leather vest, this guy could really hit the notes. But his guitar prowess fell quite short of Tony Iommi’s legendary axe-slinging in the early Sabbath days.
Some of the more astute crowd members may have noticed his sloppy soloing, and frequent recycling of riffs. In spite of the musical shortcomings, this band really brought the rock.
Performing with an ability to engage the crowd that was unmatched by either of the supporting acts, Wolfmother proved to be a very energetic live act.
The Hammond D-5 keyboard use (the keyboard sound pioneered by classic rock mammoths Deep Purple, involving a flange and rotating speakers) tied it all together, sounding very authentic.
To top it all off, for the third of four encore songs, the band paid tribute to rock legend Led Zeppelin by playing their famous “Communication Breakdown” as a birthday treat for Wolfmother’s drummer. They closed the encore set with their most powerful single, “Joker and the Thief,” much to the pleasure of the crowd.
To any cultured music fan who was paying attention, and was perhaps not familiar with Wolfmother before seeing them live, Dead Meadow stole this show.
Playing with an unmatched level of energy, Dead Meadow employed subtle tactics of mind-blowing musicianship and creativity unmatched by Wolfmother.
Julian Root can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.