This show is part of The Wildhearts‘ current UK tour to promote the band’s first new album in ten years, The Renaissance Men, that also miraculously sees them back with the band’s classic line-up of Ginger, CJ, Danny McCormack, and Rich Battersby who have all just about survived everything thrown at them. The album currently sits at number eleven in the charts.
This tour sold out pretty much everywhere in advance as the band’s loyal following didn’t want to miss out, knowing how well this line-up did to celebrate the Earth Vs The Wildhearts 25th anniversary last year.
By the time I got into The Electric (that for older readers used to be The Fridge), Towers Of London were most of the way through their set. Somehow these snotty punks have managed to survive for 15 years despite all the trouble and scandal of the early years to become a dependable gang punk band that almost no one would accuse of being chavs anymore. The band’s set closes with the double assault of On A Noose that had loads of fist pumping to go with the rousing chorus and Donny Tourette rabble rousing as ever.
The main support act Massive Wagons swaggered on stage to crank things up a good bit opening with Dirty Little Secrets that channeled Slade and Status Quo so that they sounded like a proper old school heavy rock band. The riffing got even heavier on Nails as Barry Mills bounced around and yelped and screamed about all the pain he was in as the swaggering rifferama felt like Gillan being honed through Orange Goblin or any number of other classic “biker rock” acts. Back To The Stack was dedicated to Rick Parfitt and certainly has a Status Quo feel to it. More than just a tribute to a dearly departed legend, it sought to update the hard riffing no nonsense mindless boogie and it certainly had most of the audience singing along to the chorus. That was followed by the magnificent Ballad Of Vernon Hayes, a song about an angry old pensioner who’s over 100 years old and still doesn’t give a damn what anyone thinks. This just brought a huge grin to my face as they really want us to all just keep being true to ourselves and rocking like hell right to the end. China Plates is a great kiss-off to someone you no longer need in your life with the guitars raging almost as much as Barry Mills‘ vocals are as we are left in no doubt that he doesn’t want to be friends anymore.
Ratio is introduced as being about the “rock scene” and it felt like they were trying to smash down the walls and ram home just how important great live rock music is in the lives of so many of us. It’s a point that is made again on In It Together, a proper hard rock anthem to get everyone pumping the air and singing along with them while reminding us why bands like Slade and Status Quo rocked like this in the first place.
They closed with Fe Fi Fo Fum and the band’s take on the old nursery rhyme is far preferable to its other current use advertising Weetabix as I could really believe this lot did smell the blood of an Englishman and wanted to do all sorts of nasty things to him with that crushing riff that made sure they left everyone smiling and cheering at the end of a great set.
By the time The Wildhearts came on, the audience are singing Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me. That has been easier to sing than do in recent years, but Ginger is looking healthy and Danny McCormack is finally able to play standing up all through the set once more with his new bionic leg. They open with the massive rumble of Dislocated, the opening song on the band’s new album Renaissance Men. It gets the mosh pit going and the packed crowd are already able to sing just about every word of it.
That went straight into Everlone without too much of a pause as the audience bounced along to it and CJ let rip, unable to stop grinning at the reaction it still gets. Vanilla Radio doubled the size of the mosh pit and saw the first of the night’s crowd surfers. And why shouldn’t middle-aged men crowd surf as we all sang along to this great hit?
Then, as usually seems to happen in London, CJ had some minor problems with his guitar. This time the batteries on his radio pack needed changing, while Ginger said hello and thanked everyone for the continued support as they launched into a wicked version of Sick Of Drugs, a song that seems ever more relevant today and just as much fun as it always is played live.
The Revolution Will Be Televised packed its usual punch and has added poignancy these days when Ginger sings the line “can you die alone?”. It ends up being really touching in ways I’m sure it originally wasn’t meant to be. Top Of The World is certainly where The Wildhearts seem to finds themselves again with this latest tour and they sound so tight and yet are flying off kilter at the same time.
Ginger thanks everyone for getting the new album into the charts before telling us all how important it is to get rid of the wrong people from our lives before they play Let ‘Em Go from Renaissance Men. It already feels like another anthem for our times as everyone shouts the chorus back at them. Urge is played at breakneck speed and yet still feels a little bit slow compared to Caffeine Bomb that Ginger dares everyone to sing along to. Of course the whole place does as if that bomb has just detonated in our collective minds.
We later get some pertinent advice on Stormy In The North, Karma In The South as we all try to find ways to work it out and live together in this shaky world of ours. Diagnosis sounds even more powerful live than it does on record as Wildheart rams home the central message: we don’t all fall neatly into simple boxes and need a personal diagnosis to get the help we all need to feel alright, and there is no shame in asking for some help with whatever issues you may have.
They finish the set with Love You Till I Don’t that asks some searching questions about the nature of relationships and of course leaves everyone wanting more as they leave the stage. Even if the crowd don’t go as nuts as I would have expected they do start singing Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me again, which is enough to bring The Wildhearts back.
The long encore opens with a great smash through My Baby Is A Headfuck that gets the biggest “pit” of the night and the throng singing almost as loudly as Ginger. Someone That Won’t Let Me Go then flies by in a welter of pain and regret. We then have the painful break up of You Took The Sunshine From New York to fill us all with sadness of anyone being that destructive a partner.
Mazeltov Cocktail goes down a treat like it always does and leads into a rampage through 29 X The Pain that really only left us needing to hear one more song. They didn’t disappoint when they closed the night with a fantastic singalong to I Wanna Go Where The People Go that guaranteed everyone left The Electric very happy indeed. As ever, The Wildhearts remain a truly brilliant live band.
Live Review by Simon Phillips & Photography by Trudi Knight Of The Wildhearts at The Electric Brixton on 9th May 2019. Trudi has her own great photography website here: https://www.bandsonstage.co.uk