Walk Off The Earth? Somewhere that name said something… I was still wondering precisely what though as I watched the video screen at Kunstrasen. It was 8.05 pm and the band were in their dressing room (the green room as they called it) but announcing their imminent arrival on the video screen of Kunstrasen’s stage. Ah yes, the video screen jogged my memory, there was a video I’d seen once of five youngsters singing Gotye’s ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ Not unusual in itself, but they were all playing a single acoustic guitar at the same time. The eye-catching video garnered over 175 million views. Suddenly I realized this could be an interesting evening, both musically and visually – and so it proved.
From the outset, it was difficult to photograph the various WOTE members through what was a multitude of both recognizable and unrecognizable instruments that threatened to engulf them. Was that a stretched out radiator pipe with three mouthpieces attached? A Surfboard? a row of foam swimming stabilizers? drums of all shapes and sizes…
It quickly became apparent that they might need so many instruments due to breakages. Guitars, ukeleles etc were thrown at irregular intervals to the wings with seemingly no glance beforehand that someone was there to catch them. Thankfully there was someone there, and if he was English then I hope Gareth Southgate gets in touch.
“Who knows what the future holds? And what will be is still unknown” – Mike’s Song
Founder band member Mike ‘Beard Guy’ Taylor passed away last December of natural causes. (Can anyone’s death at only 51 be considered ‘Natural Causes?). At the time, WOTE was on the verge of a World Tour. Tonight’s show saw the last European leg of that tour, and the band included a song written for Taylor ‘Mike’s Song’. It was a touching moment, but the magic (and the sadness) were brought home when singer Sarah Blackwood asked the audience to sing along to what was always Mike’s special part of the show – alone on-stage playing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ on keyboard. On his own? well, actually, usually accompanied by an audience of thousands. On this particular Summer’s evening, we had to ‘make do’ with Taylor on video, but the audience joined in as loud as ever.
I noticed early on that Blackwood had returned to sit at the side of the stage during the Queen classic to sit and listen. It was an emotional few minutes. Singing “I don’t wanna die” seemed a little bizarre given the songs writer and the man on video this evening were both gone. Life is short. Too short for bad music. Too short not to enjoy while it’s there to be enjoyed. It’s really the core of what WOTE are all about – Leave the days stress behind, leave your troubles behind, go to a place where you can relax. Walk off the Earth…
I really started to understand from then on what this band is all about. Its not necessarily about writing classic songs, or being clever musically or lyrically (although the band do have some class songs and know how to play). It’s about sharing the moment. It’s about connecting with people. The little pre-show video from the green room, the later video interlude when a band member disappears from the stage and they have to go find him. It’s not just about music, it’s about entertaining. About relaxing to enjoy the moment. No demands. It all began to make sense.
There was some good music on offer to be sure. I loved especially their take of Wheatus’ ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ and a mini Gotye moment that saw four of the band playing a harp guitar on Maroon5’s ‘Girls Like You’. I enjoyed the Poguesy feel of ‘Sing it all Away’ and the jokey ‘Taekwondo’ but WOTE are at their best standing together and making magic out of an oddball assortment of instruments and thereby creating new takes on old classics. It works fantastically well on YouTube but the cleverness and complexity gets a little lost on a big stage and from a distance away.
There are cannon loads of confetti and huge balloons, giveaway Tshirts thrown from the stage, even a give-away ukelele. What’s given away most at a WOTE show though is a good feeling. Maybe happiness can’t be bought, but it can be rented – for the length of a concert from Walk Off The Earth.
Finally, THAT video…