Wheatus, Brooklyn Bowl London, 5 June 2016

Wheatus Whole Band - photo credit Lisa Hafey
Wheatus Whole Band – photo credit Lisa Hafey

After a very successful tour supporting Busted across the UK and Ireland, the juggernaut that is Wheatus rolled into The Brooklyn Bowl last night, at London’s O2.

The New York based band, which is already 6 strong, also brought with them Chris Bourne (brother of Busted’s James Bourne) and Emma Blackery, both of whom had also supported Busted on tour. An extra special guest on the evening was Joseph Tawadros, an Australian Coptic Egyptian virtuoso on the oud, who will be playing a solo concert in London on June 14. See here for ticket details.

The Ventura Project - photo credit Lisa Hafey
The Ventura Project – photo credit Lisa Hafey

Wheatus operate as a close knit family band, and on this occasion had, as their support acts, band members breaking out into their own side projects. First support of the evening was The Ventura Project, which features Wheatus bass guitarist Matthew Milligan, on keyboard/drum machine, and Wheatus backing vocalist Joey Slater, on guitar.

Joey Slater - photo credit Lisa Hafey
Joey Slater – photo credit Lisa Hafey

Explaining that they normally play a rockier set, but as Joey commented, it was cheaper for them to bring a drum machine with them than also pay for a drummer, so this time it was just the pair of them. The duo opened their set with a really stripped back and hazy cover of Prince’s, ‘1999’: it took a couple of seconds for us to work out why the song felt very familiar! This was followed by the very lovely ‘Vienna’, an original, not a cover of the Ultravox song (we think anyway).  We’d been told that The Ventura Project was going to be very unlike Wheatus, but their next song, which was co-written and produced with Brendan B Brown, came pretty close. Check out the lovely video for ‘Distracted’:

Final song of The Ventura Project’s set was a gorgeous cover of David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’, which had this Bowie-fan welling up. It was a fitting finale to a lovely opening support set. The Ventura Project have an album, ‘Novopangaea’, which can be purchased from their website. You can also find them on Twitter and Facebook.

Gabrielle Sterbenz - photo credit Lisa Hafey
Gabrielle Sterbenz – photo credit Lisa Hafey

The second support act was Gabrielle Sterbenz, who with Joey, is also one of Wheatus’ backing vocalists. Gaby last year released her self-titled album, which was produced by Brendan B Brown. She brought to her set several songs from this, including, in no particular order, ‘The Breakup’, the beautiful, ‘Your Hands’ (essentially a love song, it goes on about all the things you can do with them), ‘Felicia’, dedicated to her dog Fanny (“In the US you can get away with having a dog named Fanny. We have so much freedom!”), ‘In The Red’, and ‘The Bridge’, which she introduced as being about the Pulaski Bridge, connecting Queens and Brooklyn. After asking if anyone in the audience had been over the bridge (to which some answered “YESSSS”), Gabrielle expressed surprise, as “it’s not a very nice bridge, it’s in an industrial area, it’s not as nice as The Brooklyn Bridge”.  Gabrielle’s album is available on iTunes.

Gabrielle Sterbenz - photo credit Lisa Hafey
Gabrielle Sterbenz – photo credit Lisa Hafey

Rounding off her set, Gabrielle sang a very robust cover of AC/DCs ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’, which was an excellent rendition yet huge contrast to her previous songs. It did however provide the perfect opener to Wheatus.

Brendan B Brown - photo credit Lisa Hafey
Brendan B Brown – photo credit Lisa Hafey

As promised by Brendan in our recent interview with him, Wheatus asked the audience what songs we wanted them to play, and launched into our requests with the confidence and assurance of a band who’s been playing together in various forms for a very long time, and who also love to perform live. With first song ‘Truffles’, as BBB said, “where it all began”, they started as they meant to finish – covering pretty much their entire anthology in no particular order. Wheatus teased us, by refusing to play crowd favourite, ‘Leroy’,  until a very reasonable six songs in.

Chris Bourne & Gabrielle Sterbenz - photo credit Lisa Hafey
Chris Bourne & Gabrielle Sterbenz – photo credit Lisa Hafey

Brendan brought in Chris Bourne, who has been touring with Wheatus and Busted, promoting his new single, ‘MFT80s’ (available on iTunes). Chris played Brendan’s guitar, while Brendan sang, ‘BMX Bandits’, a song about when Brendan broke his collar bone riding a BMX bike “Ten years ago – when I was 33”.

Brendan B Brown - photo credit Lisa Hafey
Brendan B Brown – photo credit Lisa Hafey
Brendan B Brown - Photo Credit Lisa Hafey
Brendan B Brown – Photo Credit Lisa Hafey

This was followed by ‘Dynamite Satchel Of Pain’, which caused us to comment that both Brendan’s guitar playing and dress style owe a lot to Angus Young from AC/DC.

Leo Freire - Photo Credit Lisa Hafey
Leo Freire – Photo Credit Lisa Hafey

Special mention must be made of drummer Leo Freire and Mark Palmer on keyboards. Mark in particular was difficult to see from where we were standing, but he kept the whole band together, as did Leo’s playing.

Mark Palmer - Photo Credit Lisa Hafey
Mark Palmer – Photo Credit Lisa Hafey

Mark Palmer, Leo Freire, Matt Mulligan - Photo Credit Lisa Hafey
Mark Palmer, Leo Freire, Matt Mulligan – Photo Credit Lisa Hafey

Wheatus played for over 2 hours, a total of 21 songs, including covers of Erasure’s ‘A Little Respect’, and Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake It Off’, as well as Joseph Tawadros’s feature on the oud. It was fun, if a little exhausting, and it’s testament to this band who have been, in one way or another, performing for the better part of twenty years, that high octane live performances aren’t exclusively for the young. Last night Wheatus gave it all they had – with Brendan hitting all the high notes – not least of which with show closer ‘Teenage Dirtbag’, for which he brought out Chris, Joseph, and Emma Blackery, to assist on backing vocals – with no less precision than he ever did.

Wheatus continue their UK tour tonight at the O2 Academy, Liverpool, and round it all off with a final concert tomorrow at The Scene, in Swansea. Check out their website for further ticket information. Wheatus will be getting their seventh studio album together on their return to the US, and we can only hope it’s not a long time until their next UK tour.

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About the author

Lisa has been writing for over 20 years, starting as the entertainment editor on her university newspaper. Since then she's written for Popwrapped, Maximum Pop, Celebmix, and ListenOnRepeat.

Lisa loves all good music, with particular fondness for Jedward and David Bowie. She's interviewed Edward Grimes (Jedward), Kevin Godley, Trevor Horn, Paul Young, Peter Cox (Go West), Brendan B Brown (Wheatus), Bruce Foxton (The Jam), among many many more. Lisa is also available for freelance writing - please email lisa@essentiallypop.com

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