Wheatus (Southampton Engine Rooms, 20/05/19)

Supported by Frank Hamilton.

This was my third time seeing Wheatus, having caught them twice before at the since closed Talking Heads in Southampton. The death of the venue in interestingly mourned by frontman Brendan B. Brown (“real shame about that place…”). Wheatus have made a habit of returning to the UK every year and being very thorough on their tours, in the knowledge that many will flock to see them, time and time again. In fact, as of this post, Setlist.fm lists 209 UK shows, and only 60 in the USA) I knew how joyful they were live (and rather surprisingly, one of the loudest bands I’d seen), and had to be there once again.

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Brendan B. Brown

Part of their charm is the reluctance to even have a setlist, besides the inevitability of finishing the night with ‘Teenage Dirtbag’, and leaving it up to the audience to decide what is played next, making the show very disjointed and great fun. After a slight mistake was made during ‘Leroy’, Brendan asked the band to play that section again deliberately with the mistake, and was overjoyed by how weird and funny it sounded. As someone who doesn’t know the Wheatus canon in much depth, I can’t really judge how funny that was. Those around me seemed to ‘get it’. I don’t think I’m being too offensive by not being in the know, because he is humble enough to concede that everyone wants to hear the hits (“you’re a first album crowd, huh?”).

By the way, I say ‘the audience’ chose, but it was primarily one very demanding “Southampton diva” who would not stop shouting. In fact, when Brendan attempted climb over the barrier and into the crowd for a dance (and grind on people, myself included. I’ll take that experience with me to the grave), she wouldn’t let him past. It was like he wasn’t allowed to entertain anyone else as long as she got her way! Luckily he was able to claw his way through!

As everything was so interactive and conversational, there were some funny exchanges, most memorable after Brendan should off some of his guitar skills…

Brendan: “Wait till I start finger tapping!”

Fan: “Ew…”

Brendan: “Someone there said ‘ew’! It’s a guitar technique!”

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(L-R) Gabrielle Sterbenz, Joey Slater, Karlie Bruce

Speaking of which, he is a much better guitarist than many people realise. Much better than a supposed ‘one-hit wonder’ pop-punk guitarist has any right to be. After performing ‘Wannabe Gangstar’ (Brendan took great pride in it being “the worst video ever”), he launched straight into Iron Maiden’s ‘The Number of the Beast’, but stopped before the vocals kicked in, to a disappointed sigh from the crowd.

Brendan promised that he would have an Iron Maiden cover ready for next year, when they intend to go on another tour to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their debut album (“If all goes to plan, I’ll be 47.”). I hope he sticks to that promise. I’ll make sure that I’m there for it next time they come around.

 

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