Words and Pictures: Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media
The sign of a band that cares about its’ fans is the effort it puts into 2 specific things, how they treat the people that buy their music and the support acts that they take out on tour with them. In the case of The Wildhearts, the current Renaissance Men Pt II tour has seen the band perform in multiple towns and cities as has accompanied most gigs with a record signing session at either FOPP or HMV. No paid for meet and greets, just a case of get there early with your CDs and Vinyl, pose for a picture, press the flesh and get your stuff signed. Gene Simmons would be appalled but then again Mean Gene probably doesn’t get the respect afforded to him that fans of The Wildhearts are happy to lavish at the modern day Fab Four.
As far as the support acts are concerned, Janus Stark and Ferocious Dog tick the boxes that say, get in as soon as doors open and drink, sing, dance. If ever the headliners wanted an easy ride, following an average band rather than two that are worthy headliners in their own rights, this was not the tour to do it.
Meet and Greet
Well, I have to show it but as a word of caution to fans attending future signing sessions, never, ever, sit in front of the band….
After what was actually a rather fab meet and greet, the gig kicked off with returning rockers, Janus Stark.
Formed in the 90s, the decade that forgot about you if you remotely sounded like you were having a good time making music, Janus Stark, played a fusion of Punk rock, hard rock, heavy metal and alternative with influences from Helmet to The Ruts to The Beatles to The Clash. Fronted by The Prodigy live guitarist Gizz Butt, it’s like a breath of fresh air to see them on stage once more peddling the sort of tunes that make you want to bounce around like a loon with a shit eating grin of immeasurable width on your face.
Time away from the scene has done the band no harm whatsoever and their music feels as fresh, vibrant and relevant as it did first time around. Gizz Butt has assembled a team of musicians that are as tight as a gnat’s chuff and for the opening band of the night, they play and move as if they’re the main act. They often say the that the right bill brings out the best in you and for Janus Stark they proved it and then some. The album, Great Adventure Cigar remains their sole LP and if the new line up including Richard Gombault, Fozzy Dixon and Simon Martin can get their act together, new music may well be forthcoming. Here’s hoping.
One down and two to go. I first saw Ferocious Dog when they supported The Wildhearts in London at KOKO and to say they blew me away would be an understatement. The make the sort of raucous racket that the Levellers’ made popular and then forgot how to keep it going. Ferocious Dog however made copious notes when studying the Brighton based rockers and have applied their own take on punk tinged. folk rock adding their own (often politicized) view on life.
With enough band members to be able to swing a narrow margin on a Brexit vote, Ferocious Dog brought about the first most pit of the night. As the opening song of the set kicked in, the centre of the Junction’s ample floor space erupted with a sea of people of all ages barreling off each other as the crunchy Celtic folk rock jigs propelled people to let it all out in carefree abandon.
The songs build, swirl and impress upon us the seriousness of the world and specifically the country we live in at the moment. Their music needs 2 distinct listening modes, one at home to absorb the message and consider what you can do about it and then there’s the live environment. Live, it’s difficult to take in the messages as typically you’re too busy drinking copious amounts of whatever keeps you going and dancing like your life depended on it.
By the time they finished, even with The Wildhearts yet to come on stage, I could have gone home happy at that point. Yet another sign of the perfect bill!
With Diagnosis, the recent 6 track EP performing well in the national charts, the band looking stronger and tighter than ever and the new full length album ‘Renaissance Men’ set to make the top 5 and higher of critics 2019 album of the year choices, it’s been a good year to be in The Wildhearts.
Hopefully by the time 2020 kicks in, the band will finally have snatched the victory from the jaws of defeat (as opposed to the opposite way around) that they so rightly deserve. If ever a band deserved a true life story documentary in the same vein as Anvil’s The Story of Anvil, then it’s this band. Laughter, tears, misery and triumph have followed this band around since their debut album exploded on the scene in the early 1990s. The Wildhearts are true survivors, have a rabid following and perform, as Ginger once said, as if every gig is going to be their last one.
For a band that could simply latch onto the hits and keep at least 80% of the crowd happy with them, set-meister Ritch Battersby has recognised the impact that the new album has had on the faithful and the Junction set list is a wondrous thing to behold. With no less than half of the songs from the new album included in the set, the band are currently playing to packed houses with a setlist that proves just how current they remain (with national radio and media coverage backing up that theory) and their messages, like Ferocious Dog before them, strike a chord with people who feel like they’ve been handed the shitty end of the stick by the government of this country.
They too need different listening modes to ensure their messages get across. Live, the mosh pits that commenced earlier in the evening continue throughout the entire set so the ‘point’ a song is making can be lost in the midst of the crush but when everyone is picking up copies of the album or EP then those messages will be absorbed and considered when everyone is back in their own homes.
The rarities also get a great reception, the faithful appreciating the effort to put 25 odd years of music into 90 minutes, with The Revolution Will Be Televised, Mindslide and Action Panzer being welcome surprises.
The hits of course are rolled out and the encore including Everlone and Suckerpunch showcase the lean, mean, 7.5 legged fighting machine that currently (and hopefully forevermore) makes up the band these days. Let’s just hope they can hang onto it all this time. It’s been a long time coming and is massively deserved.
Let ‘Em Go
I Wanna Go Where the People Go
Sick of Drugs
The Revolution Will Be Televised
My Kinda Movie
The Jackson Whites
Red Light – Green Light
Fine Art of Deception
Love U ’til I Don’t