Live Review: Wheatus - KK's Steel Mill, Wolverhampton
21st September 2023
Support: MC Frontalot
Words & Photos: Damian John
Nostalgia’s a funny old thing, if it wasn’t for one single song I wouldn’t be standing outside of KK’s Steel Mill Wolverhampton on a drizzly Thursday afternoon waiting for the doors to open, taking me on a trip back to the early 2000’s. I was barely 10 years old when Wheatus, a rock band from New York USA released their first single ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ from their self titled debut album, surely nobody could have known the cultural effect this track would have and what it would help spawn over the years to come but fast forward 20 years and here I am. Ready and eager to get inside and properly experience what Wheatus are really all about.
First up however is Damian Hess, better known as his alter-ego, the nerdcore rapper MC Frontalot. Damian’s no stranger to touring alongside and opening up for Wheatus as he joined them on their 2018 tour across the UK, anyway onto the show. MC Frontalot takes to the stage wearing his signature red shirt, tie and a red light attached to his head, briefly speaking to the audience letting them know that he is a self confessed nerd and will be here for around 40 minutes, leaving us with around 20 minutes to get a drink before Wheatus come on up. As he initially got into his first track of the evening the crowd seemed fairly confused by what was happening before them but by the third or fourth, MC Frontalot had won them over. His quirky persona doing a lot of the heavy lifting between songs while speaking to the audience and even had the crowd tutting along waving their fingers in disappointment to the closer of the set ‘Tongue-Clucking Grammarian’.
After a short wait Wheatus took to the stage. They didn’t have an elaborate stage set up or make an entry surrounded by pyro cannons with lasers being shot into the air, they simply walked onto the stage, vocalist Brendan B. Brown took his position to the left. ‘Bands should not be allowed to make their own set’s,Says Brendan ‘that’s a terrible idea, it’s your show you paid for it’ Signalling to us that this is truly a gig for the fans, one where the audience gets to decide what’s performed. ’Amsterdam’ is called from the rear of the venue but is beaten ever so slightly by someone requesting ‘Sunshine’; our first song of the evening. Wheatus are a band with over 20 years worth of material so they have to be ready for whatever this Wolverhampton crowd may throw at them.
Not surprisingly ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ is immediately called out the second the final note of ‘Sunshine’ rings out, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll get to that’ jokes Brendan. A highlight of the set came pretty early into their performance with their cover of Erasure’s ‘A Little Respect’ featuring some divine backing vocals from Karlie Bruce and Gabrielle Aimee Sterbenz. It’s incredible how Brendan is able to introduce every song with a short anecdote, it wouldn’t matter if he was talking to a crowd of 300 or 3000 his ability to connect to his audience is breathtaking. After a set consisting of a staggering 17 tracks so far we finally make our way to the final song of the night. We all know what’s coming, it has been requested a million times already but it’s finally time for ‘Teenage Dirtbag’, the soundtrack to the American Pie generation.
You don’t need a music reviewer to tell you how awesome it was to hear Teenage Dirtbag live but I can tell you how awesome it was to experience the rest of their material. I walked in, like many others only knowing one song but left happy in the knowledge that Wheatus aren’t just a one hit wonder legacy-nostalgia act. They still put on an amazing show and have the material to back them up, well worth checking out if they happen to be performing in a venue near you.