Words & Pictures (C) Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media
It’s that most wonderful time of the year… (I’m sure there’s a song lyric there somewhere) so we headed to London for a pandemic permitting gig at 229, The Venue for Ginger Wildhearts Birthday Bash. This is one with a difference though. Instead of a 3 hour slog-a-thon with Ginger on stage for the majority of it surrounded by close friends and artists, this was to be one of the first headline shows for Ginger Wildheart and the Sinners. Expectations were high, anticipation from the fans was high, the number of people who had bought tickets but dropped out due to Covid concerns, sadly, also high. Those that made it though were given comfort by some of the best Covid pass \ LFT result checks that I’ve seen a a venue all year. Fast, effective and great work from the security team on the door alleviated a lot of concerns that people may have had and left us all in good spirits for the show to come.
Opposite the Great Portland Street tube station, the venue has played host to many many bands, and has a huge stage that means the tall buggers like me can stand front and centre and still not upset anyone stood behind me. Great views to be had by all, great music to be heard, a great bill comprising Nick Parker, Rich Ragany & The Digressions and our headliners.
Glastonbury based Nick Parker has received more than a little praise from the assorted fanbase that follows Ginger Wildheart around the country on tour. Like the Richard and Judy book club, a recommendation from Ginger, a support slot on a tour, and the artist gathers an army of support and willing buyers of music.
Nick’s subtle humour driven songs have seen him deliver 3 studio albums, 2010’s ‘The King of False Alarms’, 2014’s ‘Angry Pork and the Occasional Bird’ and 2017’s ‘Besta Venya’. 2020, the year when it all went sideways, also saw Nick release ‘Make Siddowda – Live from Worcester’.
A short but sweet set, with some real humour saw Nick and a trusty acoustic guitar get the ball rolling. He suffered of course with the age old problem of ‘opening act, relatively empty venue, acoustic set and people reconnecting over one or more beverages’. His trick to pull people on board involved some great sing along moments, including one particular track which would have helped “if there were any Germans in the room”…. but silence prevailed but when we started to hear the words, the smiles broadened and the crowd started to settle down; Check this out because after this., “Alles was indeed Okay”
Es Tut Mir Leid
Walking down the high street in the middle of Cologne
I’ve got one eye on the pavement and the other’s on my phone
Checking data roaming’s off and searching for WLAN
I’m not looking where I’m going I nearly hit another man
I said “Entschuldigung”, he said “Kein problem”
He said “Nichts passiert”, he said “Alles ist okay”
Rich Ragany & The Digressions
Hot on the heels of an album launch show at The Black Heart in Camden and a support slot with Warner E Hodges, Rich Ragany is currently high on the ‘Top albums of 2021’ lists for many of the people who were present at the gig. ‘Beyond Nostalgia & Heartache’ has been well received by fans and critics alike and the band, comprising Rich, singer and guitarist Kit Swing, keyboard maestro Andy Brook, guitarist Gaff, bassist Ricky McGuire and tubthumper Simon Maxwell clearly had something to say.
You can check out our review of the album here:
Ragany often appears on stage with an element of surprise in his eyes, almost shocked that people want to listen to his music and watch his band perform. I don’t know why but he needs to realise he has the tunes, the presence and most importantly the band to back up anything he needs to get across to the crowd. As ever, they turned in a performance and a half but even though he was on form, there was still something clearly bothering Ragany as evidenced by a moment when the acoustic guitar was thrown down, the microphone was grabbed off the stand and he put one foot on the monitor and flicked the ‘full on’ switch for the latter half of the set.
The difference in delivery, the intensity, the crazed look in the eyes, the difference was really noticeable. A lot of the time when Rich plays, he always seems genuinely grateful for everyone being there to watch the band. The latter half of this performance shows what else he can do when caution is thrown to the wind and the energy level caps are removed entirely. If there were people present who didn’t like the music before the switch over, then I’m sure some were converted by the end of the band’s set.
Ginger Wildheart & The Sinners
With some two albums worth of material written and recorded, yet nothing available to an eager, needy public, the only way to hear new music from Ginger Wildheart (outside of The Wildhearts) is to go and see the band perform live.
The four piece, comprising Ginger Wildheart (guitar \ vocals) , Stone Mountain Sinners vocalist and guitarist Neil Ivison as well as bassist Nick Lyndon with drummer Shane Dixon, put on a show comprising new tunes, old SMS tracks and some Wildhearts classics to boot.
What worked and something Ginger has often wanted in a band, is that Neil is both guitarist and lead singer. The role freed Ginger up to indulge in playing, harmonising and yes still playing the role of lead vocalist but not all of the time. Whilst he openly admitted on stage that the lead vocalist position is one that he’s accepted over the years, it was clear to see he was enjoying the elements when Neil stepped up with thanks, banter and the odd story to enthral the crowd.
The musical style was a mixture of southern rock, country, classic rock with a few hard rock numbers thrown into the mix. With a Georgia Satellites cover slotting neatly against Ginger’s own material and the Stone Mountain Sinners ‘Arms of Love’ (which got a great sing along going), what was one of the most intimate Birthday Bashes (in all but name) was also one of the most enjoyable. For over an hour, we were able to forget what was happening in the world and get lost in a myriad of tunes that were both familiar, new and exciting in equal measure.
The smile Ginger had when introducing new material he’d written with the band said a lot. Clearly inspired and enjoying working with the other three, the music we’ve got to look forward to in (hopefully) Spring 2022 will be well worth the wait.
The highlight for the four-piece came from a mutual love of Status Quo and a fan friendly rendition of ‘Dirty Water’. Smiles all round, note perfect and a great moment to be part of for the crowd.
No Birthday Bash (it was… let it go 🙂 ) is ever complete without a few special guests. The few this year came in the form of both Andy Brook and Kit Swing from Rich Ragany’s band with Kit performing guest vocals on a cover of ‘Honour’ which Ginger had originally recorded with Courtney Love.
The Wildhearts ‘Only Love’ from the vastly underrated ‘Must Be Destroyed’ album followed and the set closed with ‘Loveshit’ which strangely felt like the most accurate way to finish live shows in 2021.
That the gig happened at all was a miracle with so many other acts falling by the side but thanks to the tenacity of the performers, the venue and the fans that were willing to put their faith in the hands of strangers, it all turned out well.
Let’s do it all again next year!
Six Years Gone (The Georgia Satellites cover)
Footprints In The Sand
The Words Are Gonna Have to Wait
Dirty Water (Status Quo cover)
Arms Of Love
Not The Staying Kind
Walk of Shame
I Got You
The Daylight Hotel
Only Love (The Wildhearts song)
Loveshit (The Wildhearts song)