No one truly understands the pain of the subjects above quite like Walk Off The Earth, who were propelled to fame when their cover of Gotye’s 'Somebody that I used to Know' received around 150 million views on YouTube. Since then, the band simply hasn’t been able to get away from their viral hit – a cover that has eclipsed seven years of graft and three studio albums.
After watching W.O.T.E. perform last night, I understand their frustration. Their current UK tour is based on their latest studio album (and first on a major record label), R.E.V.O., a wonderfully creative and varied collection of original tracks that are a pleasure to see performed live. As I watched from the crowd and soaked in their infectious enthusiasm, talent and sheer love for music, I Instantly understood why front man, Gianni Luminati, has a glint of murderous rage in his eyes every time an interviewer dwells on, what now must be thought of as, “THAT F*CKING COVER WE DID OVER A F*CKING YEAR AGO!”
As I looked around the adoring audience, it became clear that these guys really are stepping out of the shadow cast by their infectious covers. Original tracks like 'Red Hands' and 'Summer Vibes' invited as much (if not more) applause and singing along as their better known covers – a reaction that was reassuringly evident of a legitimate fan base. If this following was attracted by the covers, it certainly stuck around for the originals, which, in my opinion, were even better.
The band consists of two to three familiar faces, then an almost comically interchangeable squad of instrumentalists. Arguably, the nucleus of the band is Gianni Luminati and his heavily pregnant misses Sarah Blackwood, while the others buzz around like electrons on crack. I am not saying they do not contribute, and having them involved certainly makes the band the unique and energetic entity that it is. It is just hard to tell who is actually part of the band, as I'm sure even the janitor had a solo at one point.
The gig itself was sheer spectacle. W.O.T.E. are known for their repertoire of instruments, but I wasn’t quite prepared for this. Gianni went through an acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass and drums, while his fellow frontman Ryan Marshall went through the same but raised the stakes when he pulled out a trumpet. Sarah shredded on a Ukulele, Banjo and electric guitar while the ‘silent Bob’ of the group, Mike "Beard Guy" Taylor, played what I can only describe as a bong-mini-keyboard hybrid. I swear I saw him strumming a cat half way through 'Sometimes'.
It is hard to tell exactly how much the alternative instruments are contributing to the melody, but seeing the guys literally throw them about while nervous roadies do their best to juggle them brings a fun, circus feel to the performance that is seldom seen elsewhere. Also, if mainstream acts are criticised for their lack of musical talent, try telling the members of W.O.T.E., who can competently play anything (including random inanimate objects), that they aren’t musically gifted. In my opinion, the variety of instruments represents what these guys are truly about – music, in all its forms. Seeing them make a tune out of anything makes it feel less like a gig and more like a celebration of music, which was really inspiring.
The crowd interaction, chiefly by the happy couple, was spirited and intimate at the same time. I was particularly impressed with heavily pregnant Sarah, who endearingly rocked as hard as the others, even if she did have to get hoisted back on to the stage after she jumped into the pit. The guys haven’t yet developed the pretentious ego bigger bands sometimes get and you did get a sense they were over the moon with the turnout of 2000 English fans. I love it when a band looks like they’re having as much fun performing as the crowd is watching. It is refreshing to see, as so many bands play the ‘too cool to care card’; one that personally evokes more thoughts of cu*t than cool.
Last night, I watched W.O.T.E. as a sceptic, expecting nothing more than glorified karaoke by quirky hippies. I could not have been more wrong. W.O.T.E. put on an engaging and fantastic performance that proved, once and for all, that "that cover" is just one fragment of this talented band’s rich and varied musical repertoire.