Words & Pictures: Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media
10 years on from ¡Chutzpah!, the last album from The Wildhearts, the band have worked miracles and returned with what may well be THE album of 2019. Renaissance Men offers up The Wildhearts at their very best and the album sits comfortably alongside the classic debut, Fishing for Luckies and… in my honest opinion, just nudges P.H.U.Q to one side as well.
The album, which debuted on the UK charts at number 11, has reinvigorated the band and sees Danny, Ginger, CJ and Ritch playing some of the best gigs of their lives. Did that new found energy translate to London.. the city that the band loathe but are more or less required to play on a tour? Let’s see.
Support came in the form of another band that has reformed with its own classic line up and they too are writing fresh material which should result in a new album later this year.
Towers of London
Hyped by many, derided by just as many again, Towers of London did nothing if not divide opinion when their debut album, Blood Sweat and Towers, was released. Adding to it a hedonistic approach to life resulting in as much negative press for the band as positive and you had a car crash waiting to happen.
Implode it did and with both The Rev and Snell gone before the follow up, Fizzy Pop, was released, the band never achieved the heights of success that they threatened.
Now, older, wiser but still young enough to appear fresh, revitalised and more important wholly necessary in an age when rock music is supposed to be dead, the Towers are back and the set they performed reaffirmed that this is one reunion worth our investment both in cash and time. For those of you that thought the band were a bunch of massive wankers, you need to look past the TV show and the Buzzcocks and Big Brother appearances and listen to the music. The music is what matters and the mix of old and new sat together perfectly boding extremely well for the new album as and when it comes out.
30 minutes simply wasn’t enough. I need a 90 minute set out of these guys and soon.
Speaking of massive wankers…. it’s nice to see a band with an excellent sense of humour. The pedal board below belongs to the second band of the night and one championed by Ginger for a few years now.
Massive Wagons are playing in support of their latest album, the first to get a truly global release and one that showcases a band out there to enjoy themselves.
Never short of a cheeky word for the crowd, the setlist took a few alterations and saw Back to the Stack, a tribute to the late, great Rick Parfitt performed much earlier in the set. Its place next to Nails, was for me, perfect. The 3 chord glory of a Quo tribute sitting against one of the heaviest tracks the band performs in their set these days gels perfectly. It’s a shame that the band don’t look to their heavier back catalogue a little more as their early work saw them as contenders to steal Metallica’s throne. These days, their lighter, poppier direction may well be the preferred way forward but for us longer term fans, remembering your roots is never a bad thing.
A truly bouncy set, one that had most of the crowd responding as one. Singing along , bouncing along, the ingredients of a great night out. Most people would and could have gone home happy at this point but thanks to someone in the know understanding how to put on a dream bill.
To coin a phrase from Aerosmith, the Wildhearts are definitely back in the saddle again. Older, wiser and…. shock horror… seemingly enjoying themselves, the band that always used to turn their backs on victory at the 11th hour has suddenly realised that a win is on the cards.
Ginger and CJ, despite falling out several times over the last decade look as together as Tyler / Perry , Jagger / Richards, Richard / Judy and more.. Danny McCormack, sporting a new leg that fits him properly and allows him the luxury of standing for the entire show, adds a huge growling bass that would be as comfortable in a Godzilla movie as it is on stage with the band. Ritch Battersby, the driving force and master of the setlist (according to CJ and Ginger) seems to have helped whip the foursome into the leanest fighting machine around.
The biggest surprise of the night is the level of knowledge that the crowd have for the new songs. Whilst reviewers have had it for a few weeks prior to the show, Renaissance Men had only been in the shops for around a week prior to the show. Yet from the off, the crowd sing the new songs in perfect harmony with the band, the entire crowd treating opener Dislocated, current single Let Em Go and future classic in the making, Diagnosis with the sort of love and respect normally reserved for songs they’ve known for 20 plus years.
The neat thing about this show and the tour in general is the inclusion of both band and fan favourites. The last few years have seen both the debut album and follow up P.H.U.Q. given the ‘album in full’ treatment as anniversaries have come and gone. A select few also got to see fan favourite ‘ Fishing for Luckies’ performed in full and tracks from them as well as latter albums are all thrown into the mix.
With ¡Chutzpah! on its tenth anniversary, tracks like Mazel Tov Cocktail, The Jackson Whites and You Took The Sunshine From New York provided a sharp reminder about the album that almost got away. Thankfully with a fresh remaster on its way, we’ve got the chance to re-evaluate the album presented as it should be in its 18 track glory.
Elsewhere, even Endless Nameless has a track thrown in with Urge making it an immense career retrospective from the band. The one thing standing out… the quality of music that The Wildhearts have put together over a career that’s now heading towards its 30th anniversary.
Festivals beckon this summer and if you didn’t manage to catch the band on this short tour (because you’d decided to go off to sunnier climes for, of all things, a holiday!) then get yourself to Ramblin’ Man Fair, Bearded Theory and a handful of others that will prove once more just what this band can offer.
There’s life in the old leg(s) yet!