Friday, December 8, 2023
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Wheatus at The Welly Review

A room packed with teenage dirtbags is a distant memory for Wheatus. Their crowds are a mixture of old faithful members who remember their record from twenty years ago and those audience additions who were filtered by the club music from The Welly and beyond. Escaping the noise of Teenage Dirtbag is nigh impossible when the culture of mid-2000s nostalgia flows so openly. Surprisingly good is a backhander of a compliment, but for many in the audience at this Wheatus gig, it must have been the feeling on their mind. Wheatus does have plenty of songs, and they learned all sixty-three just in case one of their audience members shouted out a request, according to frontman Brendan B. Brown. 

He and the rest of the band, including their tour manager filling in on backing vocals for a handful of songs, are in fine form for a fun bit of stage time. An hour and a half, nineteen songs and a hell of an enjoyable time, not just for the audience but the band too. Keeping a long-running setlist fresh every tour is a difficulty, but Wheatus do so by throwing it to the crowd. Those in attendance, screaming out for this track or that, did surprisingly well to hold Teenage Dirtbag until the end. Johnson, who still holds the same higher notes and octave range as he did two decades ago, is sincerely impressive. Not just because he has managed to maintain his vocal presence as one of the more identifiable ones of the time, but of how he uses it in conjunction with the rest of the band and in interacting with the audience.  

Brown’s desire to impress himself as much as the audience is clear to the engaged back-and-forth he and the band bring. He seems moved by real joy when he realises he can still play the tricky riffs of decades past and bringing them to life on the stage endures a sincerity and freedom lost by those with a legacy. Wheatus are a band that sound far better live, and experiencing the likes of their A Little Respect cover or even the frat boy-like appearances of Hump’Em N’ Dump’Em and American in Amsterdam are real quality. They have been independent for years and push through as much as they can, their live style a genuine treat to behold. Even those who do not listen to Wheatus in their spare time can find plenty to love about this one, the My Name is Jonas cover says it all about Wheatus, a band revelling in the fun of their heyday.  

Why Brown was wearing a towel around his head for much of the gig is as confusing as it is entertaining to see him whip it off at random intervals. It is all about presence. Wheatus has an abundance of grand details to them, much of it a real joy to behold. The best live bands will engage their audience and win them over for the songs they may not be fully aware of. There were, of course, a few Wheatus faithful in the crowd that evening where the lemonade tasted wheaty and the knee was, once more, displaced through a tumble up some stairs, but that is the fun of any gig. Damage to ligaments, a fascination with one song can lead to the uncovering of multiple tremendous live experiences. Wheatus may be the most fun you can have with a live band in an intimate setting.  

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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