|Armed with my bulky Nikon as a passport to rudeness, I jostled my way through the rowdy yet surprisingly polite capacity crowd in the small back room of the Luna Lounge until I reached an unobstructed view at the front of the stage. There, Brendan B. Brown was busily trying to make last minute adjustments to his gear while his helpful sister Liz tugged at him as she fiddled to hook him up with a wireless unit. With Liz on backing vocals and younger brother Pete on drums this is somewhat of a family affair and once things kicked off it kinda did feel like we had been invited to a rambunctious family reunion where no one quite behaved themselves. This party atmosphere was further enhanced by Brendan B. sharing shots and light-hearted disses throughout the show with friends and fans in the audience. But all that Scotch didn’t seem to have any effect on the music as Wheatus smoothly paced a concert length set that included a rousing rendition of “American In Amsterdam” to wild response. This one, the hit single and video off their latest album Hand Over Your Loved Ones (Sony).
Recorded for the most part in the home studio at the Brown family enclave on Long Island, the album is a bit of a departure from Wheatus’ 2001 self-titled release which had gained them an international reputation as a party-hardy power-pop band with songs like “Teenage Dirtbag” and “A Little Respect” (both of which were top 5 chart toppers in England - where that first album was awarded a Gold Record). Wheatus still crafts engaging, high-energy pop melodies with Brown’s wry, sometimes ironic lyrics, but Brendan B’s nerdy persona has given way to a more mature, perhaps angrier version.
But what was evident the night of this show was that Wheatus was having a great time kicking off a stint in the cozy confines of the Luna as a de facto house band for a series of dates that lasts at least through the end of February (catch ‘em while you can). This must be quite a change from their extensive U.K . tour just this past fall. And they did it up right. Instruments directly through the P.A.; Pete Brown and his drum kit behind a plexi wall; vocal and instrumental sound mixed to perfection. Yet for all that apparent care in delivering studio quality sound it was a rollicking night with the Browns letting loose along with Mike McCabe on bass, Shannon Harris on keys and Kathryn Froggat joining Liz on back-up vocals. An intimate show in an intimate club by a world class party band.