Words & Pictures – Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media
In the 21st Century, in the middle of a 21st Century pandemic, a group of musicians collaborated to present the cure to our woes, ailments and general “it’s a bit shit right now”edness. The cure came in the form, not of a vaccine, not in the answer to global warming but in 10 unique love songs, (12 if you bought the album from Amazon and 12 in Japan but a different variant to combat the unique requirements in the far east). Those 10 unique tracks, 21st Century Love Songs if you will, are there to reengage us, get us out once more into dark, dimly lit venues, to experience the joy of live music and remind us just what we’d been missing for the last 18 months.
The Wildhearts were accompanied by Those Damn Crows (no, not the ones that shit on your car just after you’ve washed it, but the ones at the forefront of the new wave of classic rock music) and the unstoppable army of musicians that is The Middlenight Men.
As we stumbled into the long forgotten wasteland that is Camden Town on a Thursday night, the doors of the Electric Ballroom creaked open to welcome us once more into the world of beer, noise, sweat, laughter and the opportunity to see friends in a medium other than a weekly Zoom call. Backs were slapped, pints were drunk, laughter was heard and then… as the lights dimmed for the first time in the evening, the electric stripe orchestra, The Middlenight Men, took to the stage.
The Middlenight Men
Easily winning the competition for how many musicians can you fit on a stage at any one time, Nick Hughes’ band delivered something rather special to the assembled masses. With a solitary debut album only recently released, the opening act should be expected to struggle to win a crowd over. Strength in numbers clearly helps as the creaking floorboards on the stage proved under the weight of multiple guitars, horns, keys, bass and drums. Thankfully the songs, the performance and the overall presentation helped immensely as did the smart marketing of Mr Hughes who’d been carefully tapping up the enthusiastic Wildhearts fans on various forums for several months previously. A kind word or five from Ginger had done the band no harm whatsoever and with the album out, the gorgeous turquoise vinyl already in many Wildies’ houses, this was one of the first opportunities we had had to hear the music we’d immediately fallen in love with played live.
To say the band did not disappoint would be an understatement. Every tune had a hook, every hook had a lick, every lick had a beat that just burrowed deep into the brain and refused to budge. As such, when the short set drew to a close, much bouncing had been had, sweat was already starting to run, and voices were used to sing along on numerous occasions.
The band are performing the official album launch show ‘Volume 1’ on October 14th at The Underworld in Camden. Another venue many people haven’t stepped inside of for over a year and a half.
Tickets for that show can be obtained below:
Hot on the heels of The Middlenight Men, Those Damn Crows. Not necessarily your expected choice of support for a band like The Wildhearts but one that allows an excellent element of crossover from the usual NWoCR shows that TDC perform and it also moved The Wildhearts away from the more obvious punk tinged supports we’ve seen them pick up in recent years.
Those Damn Crows
The number of Those Damn Crows shirts on display made for a neat reminder that people do go to gigs as much for the support as they do the headliner. For a band formed just 7 years ago in Bridgend, Wales, Those Damn Crows have rapidly risen to the top of a heavily saturated genre and stayed there thanks in no small part to an excellent debut album in ‘Murder And The Motive’ and the recent follow up ‘Point of No Return’ which made a healthy dent in the UK Top 20 album charts.
Even though the band were named after those same birds that are predisposed to dropping a load on the freshly washed car in the driveway, there is absolutely nothing shitty about the band or their performances. In Shane Greenhall, TDC have a front man with style and charm and a voice that just oozes class. A perfect fit to their music and it clearly pays off in spades as he won the audience over effortlessly and you have to appreciate that the typical crowd that follows The Wildhearts can be very unforgiving if it’s not the band themselves on stage so huge congrats to TDC for doing such an excellent job.
Greenhall’s charm extended to the wide grin and look of pure joy at being on stage once more and that feeling was definitely reciprocated by the audience who, by now had filled the floor of the Electric Ballroom to around 2/3 full.
They closed with ‘Rock N Roll Ain’t Dead’. Never a truer word spoken and a song that should be used to spark the resurgence of live music once more around the country.
Who Did It
Long Time Dead
Send the Reaper
Blink of an Eye
Devil in My Pocket/ Go Get It/ Going Down
Sin on Skin
Rock N Roll Ain’t Dead
The rumour mill is never anything but in a constant state of questions and comments from bands and fans alike when it comes to The Wildhearts. “Oooh did you hear about last night…” , “I heard that the set was….” , “I wonder if ….” , “Will they \ Won’t they…?” I’ll leave you to insert your own conversation titbits into those items, but essentially, you go to a Wildhearts show expecting several things and hoping for some others. You expect to meet up with friends. That’s a given. You expect to buy something from the merch desk. One can never have to many Wildhearts gig shirts. You expect to get bounced around the floor if you stand near the stage as the band and fans’ energy flows across everyone.
You hope that you’ll get a full set, you hope that there will be no drama, you hope that the sound will be OK because you’ve read things and decided to make your own mind up about your venue with your complete lack of sound engineering knowledge, you hope that the hits will be played but you also want to hear the new stuff and you also want the rare stuff and, and , and…. and so on.
Sometimes it’s better to just turn up, have a beer, hope for the best and see what unfolds….
What unfolded in London was the sort of gig that alleviates all thoughts and concerns about the band, the tour and any other related matters. As Ginger himself often says, The Wildhearts didn’t get to where they are today without drama in their 30+ year career. It’s the catalyst that helps create music like ’21st Century Love Songs’ and without that drama, both personal and band related, we’d be faced with a far more sedate band and perhaps one that wasn’t still making music. It really doesn’t bear thinking about does it?
The highlights of the show were many. A happy and smiling band, one that was tighter than that colleague who always seems to need the loo when it’s their round at the bar, and most importantly a set-list that felt fresh, yet contained enough nods from old to new that everyone went home happy.
Opening with a powerful 1-2 of ‘Diagnosis’ and ‘Vanilla Radio’, ‘Sick of Drugs’ then followed but the main highlight was the inclusion of ‘Remember These Days’. The video for the song had been put together with the help of anyone and everyone who’d kept old pictures, the odd Polaroid, and any other memorabilia, resulting in a glorious run through of the early years of the band.
To recreate the moment on stage they played the new track but then took it apart and added songs from those years that they wanted to remember and for the long time fan, it was a heavenly trip down memory lane.
Before we had a chance to wipe a tear of nostalgia away from the corner of our eyes, the band launched into a frantic rendition of ‘Caffeine Bomb’ before ‘The Jackson Whites’ and a run through of 3 new tunes back to back from the current and ‘Renaissance Men’ album proved just how ‘on fire’ the lads are right now.
With a sublime delivery of ‘Caprice’ before the band left the stage, the encore saw ‘Inglorious’ draw roars from the crowd and an energised brace of ‘Suckerpunch’ and ‘I Wanna Go..’ brought the evening to a ballistic conclusion.
Was it enough, no… it never is, we always want more. Was it one of the best, well thought out set-lists that we’ve had from the band in recent years? Most definitely…. the medley moment offers the band an option to rattle through 5-6 songs over the course of 7-8 minutes keeping the old guard happy and leaving enough room in the set for some hits and plenty of new material.
A masterclass in how it should be done!
Sick of Drugs
Remember These Days / Turning American / Schizophonic / Girlfriend Clothes / If Life Is Like a Lovebank I Want an Overdraft / Splattermania
The Jackson Whites
Let ‘Em Go
Mazel Tov Cocktail
I Wanna Go Where the People Go