XX marks the spot: Wolfgang’s 20th year concert

Carljoe Javier
The band's fans were treated to a night of music and memories with the rockin' Filipino band

ANOTHER 'X' PLEASE. Wolfgang showed their fans that, after 20 years, they still rock. Photo by Aleck Pulido from the Wolfgang Philippines Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – “Sulit ba? (Was it worth it?)” Wolfgang frontman Basti Artadi asked the captive crowd during the 3rd set of their 20th year concert last November 28.

Yep, that’s right, 3rd set. Despite constant jokes about being old and out of it, the veteran band delivered somewhere around 3 hours of rocking at the Henry Lee Irwin Theater in Ateneo de Manila.

The crowd’s answer to the question was a mighty roar. And as I recollect it, I can think of no better answer. 

When they took the stage, Wolfgang told the crowd that they would be playing their longest gig ever. Broken into 3 sets by a couple of intermissions, they delivered not only a lengthy show, but an extremely powerful one. Everything good about Wolfgang was on display there.

The shredding, the mid-tempo power ballads, the ability to get into a groove and improv jam, the tightness of sound, and the virtuosity of each individual member, all of it came together to encapsulate within that show a clear picture of what Wolfgang has done as a band. 

Wolfgang has done experimental albums. They’ve done concept albums. They’ve toyed with different sounds and musical styles. And though I do acknowledge this willingness to explore and to see what they can do creatively as something important for any band, I have always felt that I enjoyed their music more when they just let it rip — when they put all that experimentation aside and decided that they would rock so hard it would tear the house down. 

For in terms of technical skill, onstage charisma, and the ability to play the hell out of a song, Wolfgang is and probably will always be up there. If this 20-year marker serves as anything, it’s to say that they can still rock with the best of ‘em, if not rock even harder.

Their new material shows a return to that early, aggressive sound. Revisiting their early work is nothing short of a declaration that they haven’t missed a beat. If anything, there is even more power in those old tracks because of their history. 

And if you were new to the fold? Well, then, this concert served as a hard-rocking history lesson. They played their songs in mostly chronological order (except for a funny moment when they forgot “Atomica” and another song, and then they went back and did ‘em before moving forward again) and though it became clear that their early period stuff was still what stuck with fans, it was good to hear how their music had developed and appreciate how they had gotten to this point. 

It did not look like there were too many young ’uns in the audience. The black shirt and jeans crowd came out in strength for this one. Artadi joked about making sure the babysitters knew they would be getting home late; little acknowledgement that the audience is much older than that headbanging, moshing crowd that they started out with in the 90s.

But it showed that these are fans who have stuck with them for most of their 20-year sojourn.

Watch this fan video of Wolfgang’s ‘Come Together’ cover from Doble Ekkis:

The Henry Lee Irwin Theater seemed an unlikely venue, and I was quickly taken aback when instead of ice cold Red Horse being available, what was on offer was coming from a snazzy espresso machine. Inside the theater there was no space for a pit, and the seating seemed to ensure a genteel and sedated show.

The music that piped through the PA before and in between sets — a bland score meant for some swooping moments in a melodramatic film — also helped to create the sense that something was amiss. 

Once things started rolling, it all went right. Starting with “Cast of Clowns” and then the crowd coming in for a rousing sing-along to “Darkness Fell,” there was no doubt in my mind that it was going to be a good gig. Admittedly, there were a few moments when the show might have sagged, though this might have been because of the high energy level of the whole thing. 

The crowd was constantly asked to get into it. And though the theater was made for sitting, soon enough we were all up and on our feet. We’d be sitting at the start of the sets, but then Artadi would scream, “Tayo! (Stand up!)” and everyone would be up on their feet again and headbanging.

The treat, the surprise, came in the 3rd set when a string section was unveiled. The strings and a keyboard came in for a couple of Beatles tracks. There was the face-melting instrumental version of “A Day in the Life” and the straight rocking “Come Together.” Added fun surprise was Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die.”

They threw in some Sabbath, too. And then we were left with “Halik ni Hudas” enhanced by a couple of string interludes and free jams as it closed out the show. 

Sulit ba?

It brought me back — way, way back — and I was jumping around, raising the devil’s horns and screaming to the music.

The mosh pit was missing, but then maybe we were all too old for that.

Nonetheless, Wolfgang showed that it’s aging well.

Here’s to adding another X to that banner of theirs. – Rappler.com