OK here’s where I am. The Music business is often like swimming with sharks, which is not at all pleasant but if you feel the need to get in that beautiful rewarding blue water you have to take the plunge and take a chance. The murky waters often reward and make that risk worthwhile. Now The Wildhearts have had the wonderful uplands and sadly the lowlands of turmoil and very public self-harm. Often with such risk you have a real high (Album releases, great tours the full Makonky) followed by the low of lows and acrimonious fall outs all exasperated by the modern world we live in where the mere mortals have access to the main players and a social media content that is available at the blink of an eye.  It wasn’t that long ago we all thought we’d seen the last of the Wildhearts and this time they were indeed broken beyond repair and the band simply couldn’t exist in each other’s orbit and couldn’t or wouldn’t admit it but as soon as that was realised the main players moved on and wounds started to heal. Rumours around a return of the name The Wildhearts were rife and alas a brand new lineup emerged. Fast forward to an album in the can acoustic shows from Ginger where the general vibe was really positive and the band had a new mojo and were ready to rock. Ginger seemed really up about what was happening and the day arrived it was all roads to Shepherds Bush Empire and lets Rock.

First up were the hard-rocking amigos that are Asomvel. They are unashamed hard rockin’ mofos. The four-piece take every hard rock cliché and embrace it and live it like they clearly love it. Marshall stacks unlike any band has used for about three decades that Biff n Lemmy would be proud of, plenty of Studded bullet bets and leather jackets, not to mention the odd legs akimbo and fist punching. Its game on as they embrace the void left by the mighty Motorhead and unashamedly try and fill an infinitesimal spec of it. Whether you like em or loath them you have to admit they do it with panache and a true belief that there is no other way from the hoarse vocals to the screaming les Pauls they go for it with boundless energy and enthusiasm. Vocalist and bass playing Lemmy lover Ralph pirouettes when prowling the stage like Lem did and even bares a passing resemblance the only thing lacking was the big hook, but hey, that can come, one step at a time. Besides  they were having a ball even ending their set with a full band bow that was lapped up by many who got in early to catch their set. Being unfamiliar with their music didn’t help but their brand of hard rock is a fine art and one that isn’t being practiced by many so more power to them. These gents were ‘Born To Rock and Roll’ just like their song said and who would deny them?

Merthyr three-piece Florence Black were up next with their heavy as hell Soundgarden meets Alice In Chains style. It’s the perfect platform for powerhouse vocalist Thomas who has thr vocals to fit that style perfectly. What they offered is a hard rock,  sludgy, ‘riff-heavy as breezeblocks’ sound that this scene needs. Even with some technical problems that potentially tried to derail them, they recovered to entertain large sections of the audience – someone else’s audience I might add, and to be fair they had the best sound of the night where a rich crystal clear sound filled not only the Empire but half of West London I’d imagine. Safe to say my Rockin Welsh brothers delivered the good and went down really well. ymdrech dda bachden.

Whilst I might not have read Kerrang for about 30 years I would imagine they are some hot shit at the moment with a critically acclaimed record on the shelves. In vocalist and guitarist Tristan Thomas he has a voice right up there with the best of this genre and one that deserves to be heard and not buried in time. Even if you aren’t a fan of the genre you have to surrender to their enthusiasm and passion for what it is they’ve chosen to do.

With the stage cleared to reveal a minimalist set made up of an old school drum riser and some platforms flanked by some confetti canons and big boys sparklers, The latest incarnation of The Wildhearts were about to be birthed so without delay the band took to the Empire Stage to be greeted like returning heroes. The set promises plenty of twists and turns so opening with ‘Sleepaway’ isn’t safe at all (good effort) the band cover pretty much every inch of the stage and new boy Ben Marsden is beaming like a Cheshire cat as he lays down the riffs like he’s been at this for years, offering a different style and approach to some very familiar songs and I liked his Angus Young style solos. He offered up an excellent alternative style to what Ginger does and it worked, because they worked and he was laying his stamp on some fan favourites all with a contagious beaming smile across his cheeky chops. 

Ginger seemed in good spirits and wanted to get on with his job and entertain the masses. He seemed genuinely moved as well with the feedback from the rapturous audience who embraced every second of the set, which was exactly as promised, varied and with pyro – It was a new band with new energy obviously the set had its non-negotiable must plays like ‘Caffeine Bomb’ ‘Shitville’ and ‘Headfuck’ but the best songs of the night for me were the excellent inclusion of ‘Slaughtered Authors’ with that magical bassline opener as well as ‘The Jackson Whites’.  Sure I love to hear the “classics” but with such a vast catalogue its great to hear songs from outside the box or what might be deemed the safe set.

Sure they could have ploughed through 90 minutes of bangers but this is the Wildhearts for fucks sake that’s not going to cut it. There was also time for a pair of new songs that will make up the new album set for later in the year and the latter being almost Ballad like ‘Hurt People Hurt People’  and the most out of the Wheelhouse for the Wildhearts and dare I say not your typical Ginger solo song either. The first however was much more a “Wildhearts” song ‘Eventually’.

All things considered, this was a win for The Wildhearts and having Ben on board seems like a great move from Ginger his positive PMA and quality of playing can only be a boon going forward and for a first outing this can only be considered a win. oh, and having big boys sized sparklers and confetti cannons is always nice – not enough bands go the whole hog mog. Just when you thought it might be all over they rise from the ashes and exciting times are once again there for The Wildhearts to grasp with both hands. Onwards and upwards the music world is always better when The Wildhearts are making music and entertaining us live. Now, let’s get the album released and get this shit on the road around shit island so everyone gets to see the triumphant rebirth of The Wildhearts it’ll make you happy.

Author: Dom Daley