Review: The Wombats with The Magic Gang

On Friday, April 13th, Lucerna, the famous movie theater and music club in the heart of Prague, transformed from the late-night dance room to an indie-rock hotspot to host English rock band The Wombats. I will admit I missed the first of the two opening acts but, in my defense, The Night Cafe’s set started at 6:15pm, which is about three hours earlier than any concert I have ever been to.

I made it in time to see The Magic Gang, which was fortunate because they were fun. A four-piece hailing from Brighton, England, they are a breezy, dancey, get-you-up-and-moving indie rock dream. Despite forming the band three years ago, releasing a number of EPs and more recently, their debut self-titled full length album last month, lead singer Jack Kaye had a cheesy grin plastered on his face throughout their set, as if this was a highschool garage-rock band’s first ever gig. Their sound is so fun and upbeat that I didn’t realize until the second chorus of “Getting Along,” which they first released as a single in February, that it is actually a pretty tragic tale. Guitarist and vocalist Kris Smith laments “It’s not the same in my dreams / And it’s different for me / You’re getting along without me.” It was easy to see they were pretty excited to tour with The Wombats, and their adorable boyish enthusiasm translated into an adoring crowd and what seemed like a good deal of new fans.

Thirty minutes later, the huge screen on the wall behind the stage lit up with an adorable cartoon wombat and [sports announcer voice] “the crowd goes wild!” The trio formed the band in Liverpool back in 2003 and has released four studio albums, most recently in February titled Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life. Going into this show, I was a little worried they would do what most bands do when they tour right after releasing an album: only play songs from their new album with one or two crowd favorites (I’ll be honest, their latest release was not my favorite). They ended up playing a huge variety, with only about a third of their setlist from the new album. They opened with “Cheetah Tongue”, the perfect intro as it builds from a guitar driven beginning to a powerhouse chorus that gets everyone moving. Each song brought a different graphic on the screen behind them, from an old-fashioned color-block static TV screen during “1996,” to pink bubbles during “Pink Lemonade” to emoji-style wombats during “Emoticons.”

The stage at Lucerna was unique, a semicircle that took up a huge chunk of the room (lead singer Matthew Murphy remarked at the beginning of the set that they never know where to look in the room when they play there). I was on the side of guitarist Tord Øverland Knudsen and, wow, I have never seen a performer with such incredible energy. Granted, he was not tied to the microphone like Murphy, but he was all over the stage, jumping, dancing, jamming and grooving with the most amazing stamina. You could tell that he fed off of the energy of the audience, and it worked well. The last song before the encore was their popular, especially dancey “Let’s Dance to Joy Division,” a lovely rock n’ roll ode to the feeling of letting loose even (they might say, especially) when things don’t look so good. The entire crowd jumped and sang together “Let’s dance to Joy Division / And celebrate the irony / Everything is going wrong / But we’re so happy” in the most amazing, carefree, this-is-what-all-concerts-should-feel-like moment of pure happiness.

The show closed with “Greek Tragedy” off of their 2015 album Glitterbug (my favorite, in case you were wondering). There’s not much more to be said than this was just a good show. I left Lucerna that night with that feeling of bliss akin to that of the last day of school, when you are carefree, you are tired, and you feel great.

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