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The Wombats are even more “on” than usual tonight, playing a ferocious pop set which opens with their usual a cappella “Tales of Girls, Boys & Marsupials” for the raucous teen crowd (and a few of us non-teens) inside the bulging Blender Theater. A few songs in, singer/guitarist Matthew “Murph” Murphy announces the band has given up drinking, at least for the night, which may be quite a feat for these Liverpool lads. He and drummer Dan Haggis make some clever AA jokes that fly right over the young audience’s collective head, but perhaps it’s the band’s sudden clear-mindedness that has led to their tightly-wound perfection. The last time I saw the ‘bats play was in March at SXSW, after all, and they were clearly lagging a bit due to the day’s margarita binging in the hot sun. This show marks their triumphant New York City return and is a perfect pre-release celebration for their album, The Wombats Proudly Present…A Guide to Love, Loss & Desperation, out in the U.S. later this month.

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Seeing the Wombats at their top form in a room filled with such young ‘uns makes perfect sense, and as Murph reminds us, it’s their “biggest show yet.” The responsive crowd is quick to jump at their chance to gleefully shout along to the Bridget Jones lines in “Kill the Director” or pump their fists in the air to a full-tilt version of the anthem “Moving to New York.”

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Not surprisingly, the guys in the audience are particularly jazzed to sing the chorus of “Patricia the Stripper” while their dates dance, blushing beside them, yet I don’t see any taking the Wombats’ up on the risqué invitation to “grab the buttocks of someone you don’t know, the harder the better.”

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The skilled energy of bassist Tord Overland-Knudsen always stands out, but tonight, he and drummer Dan are transformed into the ultimate wet dream of a rhythm section, one that any rock trio would envy. Last song, the smash single “Let’s Dance to Joy Division”, gets the entire crowd on their feet, and by the time the quick encore of hit “Backfire at the Disco” rolls along, the floor boards are about to burst.—Madeline Virbasius-Walsh/photos by Eileen Murphy