As I prepared to write up the review of The Wildhearts show at the Shepherds Bush Empire, celebrating the 20th Anniversary of seminal release ‘P.H.U.Q.’ , it was knowing that I would struggle to write anything but positive messages about the set and the band’s performance. These days, the Wildhearts are a safe bet. Not middle of the road, boring or even dull safe but safe in the knowledge that I’m always going to enjoy myself for the entire evening.
With a fiercely loyal fan base, songs to die for and more history and drama than almost any other band that has survived to tell the tale, Ginger and Co. return to Shepherds Bush also safe in the knowledge that the reception they receive will be nothing less than tear inducing.
The evening starts with Hey! Hello!. What initially began as an idea for an e.p. with Ginger writing some songs, playing all the instruments and adding Victoria Liedtke on lead vocals, has now turned into a fully fledged band with The Rev, Toshi and Ai Sugiyama on board as full time members. A line-up change with Hollis Mahady of Love Zombies joining as lead vocalist and the band are now opening the show with a full venue of well wishers who simply want the band to succeed.
If you ask Ginger where he prefers to be on stage, front and centre will never be the answer. The singer \ front man role has been thrust upon him over the years and watching him on-stage with Hey! Hello! it’s clear he is enjoying the space afforded to him out of the spot light allowing him to focus solely on guitar and backing vocals.
As such, Hollis is required to step up to the plate and she does it admirably. I’m sure many a discussion will be had about both lead singers of Hey! Hello! and who liked \ likes what about each one but tonight the stage and the crowd belong to Hollis. She brings a solid rock’n’roll edge to the band and is more than comfortable leading from the front. The set also sees Chris Catalyst stepping in for The Rev who was off celebrating the arrival of his baby.
Tracks from the Pledge funded début plus some of Ginger’s solo works such as ‘Honour’ that he recorded with Courtney Love are aired with a revamped ‘Don’t Stop Loving The Music’ which may be recorded by the band for album 2. It also suggests that the second Hey! Hello! album will result in a Pledge campaign comfortably hitting the legendary 555% mark. The combination of youth, energy, and a wealth of experience thanks to Ginger’s song writing ability meant they left the stage with cheers ringing in their ears. Not bad at all for the opening act of the night.
Black Valentine / Feral Days / Honour / Lock For Rock / Burn the Rule Book / The Thrill of it All / Don’t Stop Loving / Swimwear
For a band that’s been pretty dormant for 17 years, Baby Chaos look lean, mean and revitalised. Ready to take on the world again, the energetic Scots deliver mostly tracks from their 2 mid-nineties releases and broadly go down very well with the crowd. Given the celebrations for P.H.U.Q. fit that era in music a lot of the Wildhearts fans seem to know and appreciate the act on stage. Slightly more alternative but still energised, punk led approach to songs, Baby Chaos were clearly an inspired choice for main support. Their 45 minute set also gives Ginger time off to recover, change and prepare with The Wildhearts before they are due to go back on stage.
Intro / She’s In Pain / Blackbirds / Bullet / Have Faith / You Can’t Shut Us Up / L.Y.S.A. / We Were Youth / Peaches / Pink / Risk / Sperm
For fans, there’s not a lot I can say about The Wildhearts. The majority of people in the venue grew up with the band and have a special place in their hearts for Ginger, C.J, Jon and Ritch. Having known that the anniversary was for an album you were absent from thanks to inter-band issues at the time, it must have been tough for C.J. to step up to the plate and agree to play it in full. However, there’s no one else we’d rather see in that spot on stage and, with the London show being the last of the tour, the response when they came out was immense.
Opening with the usual show closer, ‘I Wanna Go Where The People Go’ is the sort of thing your average band is warned against. Never play your most requested song first as there’s nothing to hold you for the rest of the show. It’s like Meatloaf playing ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ as his opening number and then wondering why half the floor was empty come the encore. No such concerns bother the band or the crowd as we’re in for the duration. The energy and excitement never abates and even Ritch Battersby gets ahead of himself at one point as he barrels into the next track before the rest of the band are ready to do so. A mid set sing along involving Ginger’s guitar tech Dunc goes down well with band and crowd and, having hunted high and low for the original voice of “SHUT UP!” the lady who had uttered those words at the end of ‘Getting It’, appeared on stage to close the first set and her scream rightly ended proceedings and allowed the band a breather before they returned to play a hits set in Round 2.
Hit after hit after hit followed. ‘Weekend’, ‘Everlone’, ‘Suckerpunch’, Ginger offering to provide his best Danny impression on ‘Anthem’ and ‘Geordie in Wonderland’ were all reeled off. Of course then, the small issue of how to close, given you’ve already played the song we all expect at the beginning of the show, arises. Thankfully, with so many fan favourites in the arsenal, there was only one obvious choice. Never a hit single or a main album track yet of the most treasured songs according to fans, ’29 x The Pain’ brings everything to conclusion.
As the four seasons and Franki Valli once said, “Oh What A Night”. Ginger also mentioned on stage that they’d had far more fun doing the tour than they expected and it therefore would be unlikely to be the last Wildhearts tour. GOOD!
I Wanna Go Where the People Go
Just in Lust
Jonesing for Jones
Woah Shit, You Got Through
Cold Patootie Tango
Be My Drug
In Lilly’s Garden
Weekend (5 Long Days)
Red Light – Green Light
Geordie in Wonderland
Mazel Tov Cocktail
Sick of Drugs
29 x the Pain
The Duck Song