at Cinespace, February 14.
It’s Valentine’s Day; I’ve arrived alone into an atmosphere thickened with frustrated randiness and beer breath. Wolfmother are playing their third L.A. show in 24 hours, and the throngs who have opted to spend this amorous occasion rocking their asses off are far larger than I anticipated. It seems fitting, on a night of romantic tradition, that dry humping is made almost mandatory by the sheer population density. People clot the aisles like sticky blood cells, and despite the raucous noise of openers Darker My Love, it’s clear that the crowd is saving its attentions for a truer flame. Sure enough, hundreds of fists and voices rise up on first glimpse of Wolfmother, an Australian trio composed of neither wolves nor mothers, just jubilant music-making monkeys.
Clad in a vintage velvet coat and sporting a breathtaking pillowy afro, singer-guitarist Andrew Stockdale storms center stage as organist-bassist Chris Ross hums out dense cables of low buzz through an antiquated keyboard. Brow furrowed, drummer Myles Heskett prepares to bear down on his kit, and the mania that follows resembles a sci-fi film wherein chimpanzee specimens are fed PCP and take over the lab.
Stockdale delivers an Ozzy-esque vibrato with such gusto during “Colossal,” the set’s opener, that one can’t help but visualize the man’s uvula wagging cartoonishly; coupled with the carnal pleasure of his guitar solos, this unbridled howl stokes waves of audience joy. Swinging his bass onto his back, Ross pounces on his organ yet again, ravishing it and laying out thick retro ribbons of sound. Heskett pounds insistently away, then lets up, teasing his cymbals before Stockdale hops atop the kick drum, leaps several feet in the air and launches into further peals of rawktatsic guitar.
In total command, Stockdale raises his palms to the ceiling and benignly milks louder applause, inquiring in rock & roll earnestness whether “the good people of Los Angeles would like to go into another dimension.” By the time Wolfmother close their quickie eight-song set with a searing “Mind’s Eye,” the crowd seems spent, and dizzy with fawning. Just before descending from the stage, Stockdale coyly snarls in his Australian twang: “I hope you found a Valentine. And if not, you can love our asses!” That we can.