Words & Pictures: Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media
Now, some might say that it’s about the bands on a multi-bill event like the hot ticket that is ‘Britrock Must Be Destroyed’. Four bands on a bill with combined stage time around the 3 hour 30 minute mark. 4 bands that need to go out and show how it’s done. Not so according to front man of The Wildhearts, Ginger Wildheart. A man who’s not afraid to get his point across vocally or musically, his view is that a show like this is “all about the fans. Which ones will be the loudest?” His personal opinion, not surprisingly is that The Wildhearts will bring the loudest fans to the show.
Dodgy on the other hand may bring some of the quieter ones. Slightly bemused at how a band more akin to the Britpop end of the spectrum might be opening for what are undoubtedly three of the biggest British rock acts of the 1990s.
With headliners alternating at some of the shows and a 60 minute slot guaranteed for the three main acts that Dodgy open for every night, it was guaranteed to be a night to remember.
23 years into their career, Dodgy finally released album number 5, ‘What Are We Fighting For’, to critical acclaim. A band that seems to have managed to straddle the Britpop and rock genres equally at different times thanks in no small part to the level of raw effort the band put in on stage.
The latest album, now approaching 2 years old, saw single ‘California Gold’ lifted from it and added to a short set list that sees the people that made the effort to get into the venue early suitably entertained.
For those of you that remember the chart exploits of the band and their ‘Homegrown’ album from the 1990s, this was a great nostalgia trip and an excellent way to get the ball rolling. Nigel Clark threw everything into his performance and hits like ‘Staying Out For The Summer’ and ‘Good Enough’ raised a fair few smiles on the faces of people, many of whom had derided the inclusion of the band on the bill, moaning that the time would have been better spent handed to the three co-headliners. They were wrong, this was a blast and whoever decided to add them deserves a pint and a handshake in thanks.
You Give Drugs a Bad Name / In a Room / Staying Out for the Summer / California Gold /
If You’re Thinking of Me / Never Stop / Good Enough
Given Terrorvision appear to have been the headline band that didn’t actually get tio headline that much, a campaign by (mostly Wildhearts) fans seemed to result in their set time being extended from a miserly 45 minutes to a solid hour and as a result the band got to perform a set worthy of their co-headliner status.
And boy did they make the most of it. Even when he managed to stop briefly whilst a cake and balloons were brought on to celebrate his 50th birthday, Tony Wright never seemed anything other than fired up, desperate to belt out the next track and, quite simply have the best time afforded to him.
Feeding off his energy, the rest of the band delivered a belter of a set. Truly gripping and the sort of performance that would win over anyone unfamiliar with or not particularly bothered by the band. It was a set that defied expectations (except by perhaps the most ardent of Terrorvision fans) for most of us and as a result was all the more enjoyable.
The style and delivery of their set offered as much fun as their animated front man could muster and it was , by far, enough to fill the capacity venue in Hammersmith. Highlights of course included tracks like Alice What’s the Matter and Perseverance but closing with Pretend Best Friend / Oblivion delivered a double barrelled blast to the venue leaving the front 20 rows slightly shell shocked. With The Wildhearts up next, a sense of shock and awe was likely to pervade for some time.
Discotheque Wreck / Friends and Family / Alice What’s the Matter / Didn’t Bleed Red / If I Was You / My House / Some People Say /
Celebrity Hit List / Perseverance / Babylon / Middleman / Demolition Song / Josephine / D’Ya Wanna Go Faster / Pretend Best Friend / Oblivion
And so to the main reason I wanted to attend this four band event. Dodgy I’d never seen before and I’m now very glad I have. Terrorvision delivered in spades and had the room bouncing with their slightly eccentric brand of British rock anthems but it was The Wildhearts that knew just what was required of them in their hour long slot.
Why did this show and this set matter so much? Well, for starters, bassist Danny McCormack is back in the fold. A decade of him and Ginger not talking and then the heavens align and lo and behold, differences are resolved and Danny is back, minus one leg, amputated below the knee a while ago and a factor that’s seen him fight to play again with his band The Main Grains and ultimately to the point where he’s now walking on a prosthetic leg and for the first few songs of the set, he’s on his feet and seeing that is enough to draw a tear from even the most hardened fan. Yes, Danny returns to his stool in the latter part of the set but, shit, he’s on his feet…. words cannot express the joy at seeing this. With a new album in the works that seems to be driving all manner of excitement from Ginger on Twitter, the most anarchic band on the bill at the Apollo show no signs of impending explosion which can only be a good thing.
The hits are the things that matter and even though new music is due this year, nothing is aired at the show that fans don’t know inside out and sing along to like their lives depended on it. If the setlist reads like the best of the best of the best, it was. Note perfect, smiles all round, Rich Battersby hammering his kit as if this were the gig to end all gigs. Danny adding the driving bass and extra vocal content and the teamwork between CJ and Ginger which simply looked flawless helped The Wildhearts give a performance that was so intense it really should have closed the show. Instead we still had another hour and a quarter of music to come in the form of Minidisc pioneers , Reef.
I Wanna Go Where the People Go / TV Tan / My Baby Is a Headfuck / Suckerpunch / Caffeine Bomb / Greetings From Shitsville / Happy Birthday to You (Mildred J. Hill & Patty Hill cover) (to Tony from Terrorvision, 50 today) / Vanilla Radio / Sick of Drugs / Everlone / Nita Nitro / Weekend (5 Long Days) / 29 x the Pain / Love U ’til I Don’t
In the build up the the show, there was much consternation about the order of headliners, the set length and general grumpiness that must make bands wonder why on earth the put the effort in when all that happens is that the fans moan. Most of the bands on the bill at the Apollo (bar perhaps Reef who played there in 2015) couldn’t have sold out the venue on their own merits. Yes, all four bands (including Dodgy) deserve to be able to sell it out but the fact remains, it’s unlikely so suck it up snowflakes and be grateful that someone had the sense to put the bill together to guarantee a sold out crowd and and atmosphere like no other.
And so to Reef, the only band with new material to present and material they must be proud of as it features heavily in the set. Of course, like the other acts, the hits get an airing and it’s surprising just how many people know and remember from the heady era of the 1990s. It’s the new material though that really draws the attention, with tracks coming across like a gravelly voiced Bon Scott fronted AC/DC. If solid thumping Aussie rock is your thing, there was much to take from Reef’s set. My Sweet Love saw Sheryl Crow replaced by Lynne Jackaman and to be honest is all the better for it as Lynne has a voice to die for!
The only oddity of the night saw the band’s encore play the same song. the title track of the new album, twice. No real explanation given as to why you would do that other than to confuse a crowd that had invested in the last hour plus of your music. The reason was identiified a few days later when it was confirmed they were shooting a video and multiple angles from both performances were needed. Odd but next time pelase tell us!
Higher Vibration / Place Your Hands / Stone for Your Love / First Mistake / Consideration / How I Got Over / My Sweet Love (duet with Lynne Jackaman) / I Would Have Left You / I’ve Got Something To Say / Come Back Brighter / Precious Metal / Don’t You Like It? / Summer’s in Bloom / Naked / Yer Old / End / Encore: Revelation / Revelation (reprise)
Overall, a great night out. Something for everyone. From the breeziness and chilled kick off from Dodgy who gave it there all and managed to make some new friends to the manic bounciness of Terrorvision with a detour through Shitsville that saw The Wildhearts destroy all in their path to show closers Reef, who, as the new album title suggests were indeed a Revelation and will have quietened several naysayers.
All that remains is to make this a one day festival, throw in Therapy! and Skunk Anansie and we’re sorted!