The Wildhearts are riding on the crest of a wave right now. ‘Renaissance Men’, their first album in 10 years is an absolute monster, it’s currently at number 11 in the album charts and at least 3 of these 8 dates to promote it are already sold out.
It’s not just a good time to be a Wildheart either; it’s a good time to be a Wildhearts fan. With a sizeable chunk of the back catalogue getting re-mastered and re-issued on deluxe vinyl and the promise of plenty more dates this year, it is also an expensive time to be a Wildhearts fan, but we wouldn’t want it any other way would we? In 2019, there is more interest and more excitement about this band than I can ever remember.
Re-united and re-invigorated, the classic line-up of The Wildhearts is back, but are they back for good? Only time will tell. While this current wave of excitement could open doors and see great opportunities for a band who, let’s face it, have certainly paid their dues, I keep getting this niggling feeling that it could all go drastically tits up at any moment. So let’s enjoy it while it lasts.
Talking of things going tits up… fuckin’ Towers Of London are back! Where the hell did that come from? The original line-up that recorded the most excellent debut album ‘Blood, Sweat & Towers’ and then proceeded to burn out in a blaze of arrests and fisticuffs, are back together. There’s new music on the way too, they have unfinished business to attend to. What a time to be a rock ‘n’ roll fan!
Donny Tourette and the boys take to the stage with air raid sirens blaring and fire straight into ‘I’m A Rat’. It sounds fuckin’ ace! Dressed in matching black boiler suits and shorn of the gravity-defying hair of ten years ago, they may look a bit different, but with a newly reinstated The Rev delivering cool licks and a bare-chested Snell bashing seven shades of shit out of his kit, the band are on fire and looking like they really mean it.
While Donny’s nonchalant punk attitude is more Gallagher than Iggy, the delivery is still fantastic. ‘Beaujolais’ is punked-up to the max goodness, and newbie ‘Get Yourself Out Of Here’ with its chanting chorus and sleazy delivery is full of the right kind of attitude, it promises much for the new album.
A blistering version of ‘Fuck It Up’ surely silences any non-believers in the room and ends a high energy set from a band that is truly back to their best form.
While Towers Of London are not the fucked up kids of yesteryear, they have matured, learned a few things, but still have that edginess I desire from sleazy punk rock. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, no one can deny they were spot on tonight.
Whether they’ve got the new songs to rival the likes of the fantastic ‘Air Guitar’ or ‘On A Noose’ we will see, but I for one can’t wait to find out. Bring on new music, headline gigs and world domination then.
Now, if someone could please explain the appeal of Massive Wagons I would be most grateful, as I don’t get them at all. I’ve tried, but they are just not for me. A band fronted by a diminutive Game Of Thrones extra who sounds like Biff Byford, backed by a band who look like they scan your shopping in Aldi, call me fussy but…
Joking aside, in a live setting I can’t really fault them. They have energy, I’ll give them that much. Baz is an animated frontman and a loveable character, who can work a crowd and The Wildhearts crowd seems to love them. But that’s not enough. It would probably be ok if they had the songs, but for me, Massive Wagons just don’t have the songs, pure and simple.
I’ve seen them live several times now and my opinion hasn’t changed. I’m afraid to say I head for the bar not long into their set. Most Massive Wagons reviews I’ve read are positive, with many citing them ‘retro’. Me, I cite them ‘dated’. And in my defence I present their closing song ‘Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum’ as evidence, the cheesiest song I’ve heard in many years, and on that note I rest my case.
In all my years of seeing Wildhearts live shows, I can honestly say I have never seen a bad one, come to think of it I have never seen even an average live performance from Ginger and co, whatever the line-up has been.
Tonight is no exception, in fact tonight is probably the best I have seen them. It’s up there with the hot and sweaty Bristol Bierkeller show of ’94, its as heavy and loud as Edinburgh and Glasgow were in 2004, and it’s even as euphoric as the Chutzpah! show in Leeds 10 years ago.
From the moment Ginger cranks out that opening riff to ‘Dislocated’, the place goes nuts. Such a great response to a new song. A relentless cacophony of riffs and melodies that has the pit bouncing as one, signaling that this brand new song is already classed as a fan favourite.
It leads perfectly into ‘Everlone’, ‘Vanilla Radio’ and ‘Suckerpunch’ all delivered in quick succession, leaving no time to talk or even breathe. Going with the theme of ‘Renaissance Men’ it is a well chosen, heavy set of songs tonight. Mixing it up nicely, there are a few surprises in amongst the usual live favourites. ‘The Revolution Will Be Televised’ and ‘Jackson Whites’ are especially awesome and even ‘Urge’, which I imagined would be a disjointed mess, actually sounds amazing.
Bearing in mind that most people have only had ‘Renaissance Men’ in their ears for a week, the new songs get a great response. ‘Let ‘em Go’ was always going to go down well, it’s got a stadium-sized chorus that is up there with their finest hits. But it is ’Diagnosis’ that probably gets the best response of the whole night. What a fucking tune live! The way they build that AC/DC style riff to gain momentum, before releasing that main hook on an unsuspecting crowd, who in turn go absolutely bat-shit crazy for it. It’s a great feeling being right in the middle of the chaos for the duration. Like being a teenager discovering live music for the first time, all over again.
The band seems truly invigorated and on fire. Ginger and CJ’s vocals are spot on and the pair are full of energy, bashing out riffs and jumping in unison, giving photographers every opportunity to capture that elusive jump shot.
With bassist Danny McCormack now fit enough to make it through a whole set without needing his stool is a big, big thing. The loveable Geordie with a big heart and an even bigger bass sound just brings something special to The Wildhearts and it’s a joy to see him back where he belongs.
Post encore, the band mime through a version of ‘The Renaissance Men’ which is being videoed for a commercial single release on each night of the tour. Bit weird for all concerned, but the show doesn’t suffer or lose momentum.
A five-song encore is pretty good value at any show and with the likes of ‘Mazel Tov Cocktail’, ‘My Baby Is A Headfuck’ and ‘I Wanna Go Where The People Go’ rounding the evening off nicely, who could ask for more?
Where The Wildhearts go from here is anyone’s guess, but my advice is to go out of your way, sell your children or steal money if you have to, but whatever you do, do not miss The Wildhearts live right now, as they are on top of their game.
Buy Renaissance Men HERE
Author: Ben Hughes
Photographs: Neil Vary