The Wildhearts, Nothing Ever Changes… Except It Does… Live In London, June 6 2024

The Wildhearts return to the stage with support from Florence Black and Asomvel

Words and Pictures : Adrian Hextall – MindHex Media

The Wildhearts, you can map the band’s career trajectory on a sound wave. Since their inception, the band has had numerous lineups, career highs and careers lows.. flat-lining every now and again before the ever loyal fanbase convinced Ginger to break out the defibrillator and bring the band back again for another shot at glory. The previous shot at the big time had seen the so-called ‘classic’ lineup of Ginger, CJ, Danny and Ritch deliver two brilliant albums, both with high charting positions and all seemed well. But harmony doesn’t suit The Wildhearts. It takes the edge off, it can dilute what makes this brilliant band unique and without going into details (mainly because I wasn’t there and I don’t know the facts), it all fell apart again after ‘21st Century Love Songs’ closed out its touring schedule. Too many shows, musicians of an age unwilling to find common ground anymore, ‘the old ways’ rearing their ugly heads… who knows. What we do know however is that chief songwriter and frontman Ginger Wildheart writes a special type of song for an album that carries his surname and as a result the band and the name is once again back in the forefront of our minds and with two warm up shows in Blackpool and Grimsby, an excited Shepherds Bush Empire was to play host to a new line up, and accompanying Ginger we had something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue to help us move into the next incarnation of the band. 

Something old, well Random Jon Poole returns to bass duties, a mainstay alongside Ginger both in and out of The Wildhearts over the years. A grounding point for Ginger and a welcome stabilizer in the band. Something new comes in the form of Ben Marsden. The young guitarist knows his licks and riffs and is clearly a fan of the band if the energy and enthusiasm he brings to the role is anything to go by. Something borrowed… Pontus Snibb, lead singer and guitarist with Bonafide, drummer from Jason and the Scorchers, Pontus brings with his some serious pedigree… definitely needed when you have Ritch Battersby’s shoes to fill. The something blue comes with the lighting. More on it later but suffice to say, a Wildhearts show, usually a sea of red and darkness (mood lighting we’ll call it) left a lot to be desired in the lighting department but Ginger had promised an arena level light show at the Empire, and boy did he deliver! 

Asomvel

Before all of that though, a couple of support acts to warm us up. Now it’s no surprise hearing about Ginger’s love of all things Motörhead, so when you can no longer have the real thing, then perhaps we go for the next best thing. Asomvel are essentially to Motörhead what Airbourne are to AC/DC. Some die-hards will say it shouldn’t be allowed, others, me included, will recognise that elderly fans can’t gatekeep and younger bands ‘playing in the style of..’ should be allowed to play to a willing audience. Asomvel definitely fall into the latter category and their brand of bass driven punk-fuelled thrash-rock definitely hit the spot and got the audience warmed up. 

Touring in support of ‘Born to Rock ‘n’ Roll’ released earlier this year, the band were on fire.  They’re never going to lose the comparisons to Lemmy’s old outfit. When you”ve got late lead vocalist Jay-Jay Winter’s nephew Ralph front and centre on vocals and bass sporting tight jeans, a leather jacket and facial hair that helps bring the memory of Lemmy right to the front of your mind, it just completes the picture for us.

A cracking set, hugely enjoyable, great lighting… it boded well for later surely? 

  • 2024 06 06 Asomvel, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06 Asomvel, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06 Asomvel, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06 Asomvel, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06 Asomvel, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06 Asomvel, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06 Asomvel, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06 Asomvel, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06 Asomvel, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06 Asomvel, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06 Asomvel, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06 Asomvel, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06 Asomvel, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06 Asomvel, Shepherds Bush Empire, London

Florence Black

Welsh lads Florence Black are riding high on the crest of a wave of admiration, acceptance and acclaim at the moment. They may not move around with the same raw energy as Asomvel, but the trio know how to deliver the songs and when the songs hit, they hit hard. 

For those that know them… Florence Black are a British Made Luxury Fashion Brand. Tailored to Saville Row quality. Hand-made here in the UK using luxury blends including silk, wool, cashmere & alpaca….. ah dammit… the age old problem of always clicking on the first link of a search engine. Confusing rock and roll with fashion brands aside, Florence Black, the Welsh rock trio have a new album out as well. ‘Bed Of Nails’ with it’s excellent black and gold artwork is continuing the trend that we always knew was going to take place and that is progression. Wales has a knack of delivering chart topping acts and FB are very much poised to take the next step up the ladder as their set at the Empire proved. 

Blistering rock tunes, epic hooks and choruses to die for, delivered by someone with one of the best voices in the UK at the moment, Tristan Thomas. Along with bassist/backing vocalist Jordan Evans and drummer/backing vocalist Perry Davies, the trio powered through a very well deserved main support slot, knowing that they’d have to perform to be accepted by a notoriously opinionated Wildhearts crowd. Thankfully, they succeeded and put simply, ‘nailed it’. Lighting wise, another good use of LEDs including the blues and the whites to mix up the red and yellow to great effect. 

  • 2024 06 06, Florence Black, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, Florence Black, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, Florence Black, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, Florence Black, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, Florence Black, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, Florence Black, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, Florence Black, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, Florence Black, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, Florence Black, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, Florence Black, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, Florence Black, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, Florence Black, Shepherds Bush Empire, London

The Wildhearts

I’m not sure how many versions of The Wildhearts I’ve seen play live but the one constant throughout it all has been the man front and centre with the guitar and the dreadlocks, Ginger Wildheart. Following the flatline that followed the ’21st Century Love Songs’ breakdown within the band, something new was needed to continue the legacy of the band, bring it back to life and give it new impetus. Thankfully with the current four-piece (and the wonderful Carol Hodge in the sidelines providing some keyboard work and additional backing vocals), The Wildhearts are back. To ram home the point, the gap between the supports and the headliners saw the stage rebuilt, with Pontus Snibb’s drum kit set high on an impressive riser surrounded by LED light poles. 

They promised an arena show and the signs were looking promising. A step at the front of the stage for the shapes that need to be thrown when playing guitar and bass. A mic stand with a scarf on it as all true rock stars demand and an air of anticipation from a crowd who were equally excited, intrigued and with some, downright curious. 

As the lights dimmed and the band came on stage, they opened with ‘Sleepaway’, one of the great tracks (with the most disturbing of videos) from ’21st Century Love Songs’. Whilst the album and tour might have seen the demise of the previous lineup, there’s no doubting the quality of the material on the album and it was a bold decision, and a great one, to lead with it. ‘Diagnosis’ followed, reminding us again that not everything has to come from the band’s debut album to please the crowd. Having said that, confetti cannons and wicked lighting fx took the show to another level as fan favourite ‘Suckerpunch’ and ‘I Wanna Go Where The People Go’ triggered the first of many singalongs of the evening. 

After ‘Caffeine Bomb’, ‘Slaughtered Authors’ offered quite a poignant moment in the set. It’s inclusion perhaps quite deliberate to celebrate the introduction of Ben and Pontus and the reinstatement of Jon. 

“Here’s where you sign
To see how bright your star will shine
You’ll be the one to make us beautiful
International”

More anthems kept the party going, the crowd at the Empire in fine voice, Jon Poole, the band’s very own Tigger as he bounced his way around the stage for most of the night, even crawling under the drum riser at one point as only ‘Random’ could do. 

The new material, broken up by classic ‘Everlone’ stood out mainly because we didn’t know the tracks. Forcing us to stop, pay attention and listen, ‘Eventually’ is an upbeat rocker, fitting perfectly into the mix and hinting at good things to come when the band’s new album comes out later this year. Our ‘something blue’ came from ‘Hurt People Hurt People’, with the beautiful blue lighting adding the appropriate atmosphere to the song whose title was apparently given to Ginger by one of his children. Again, if this is the sort of music we can expect, then all well and good as far as I’m concerned. 

For the unexpected, both ‘Chutzpah!’ closing the main set and ‘Caprice’ closing the encore, reminded us why a genuine Wildhearts show will always deliver surprises. I doubt we’ll get either from former members on any of their own dates but that’s just me surmising. 

Being in London, ‘Greetings….’ was an apt choice in the encore, and of course no set would be complete without ‘…..Headfuck’ so by the time the lights, the confetti and the sparklers had all finished, we were sated enough and the broad consensus as I left the venue was that this had worked. It bodes well for the future, Ginger had a fire in him not seen for some years. He looked fit, healthy and a good 15 years younger than he actually is which also suggests the energy and enthusiasm is back where it needs to be. 

There will of course be doubters, dissenters, commentators that say “what was.. should be left alone” but personally I wanna go where the band will play the songs I want to hear live. The Wildhearts did just that. 

  • 2024 06 06, The Wildhearts, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, The Wildhearts, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, The Wildhearts, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, The Wildhearts, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, The Wildhearts, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, The Wildhearts, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, The Wildhearts, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, The Wildhearts, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, The Wildhearts, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, The Wildhearts, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, The Wildhearts, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, The Wildhearts, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, The Wildhearts, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, The Wildhearts, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, The Wildhearts, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, The Wildhearts, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, The Wildhearts, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, The Wildhearts, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, The Wildhearts, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, The Wildhearts, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, The Wildhearts, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, The Wildhearts, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, The Wildhearts, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, The Wildhearts, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, The Wildhearts, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, The Wildhearts, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, The Wildhearts, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
  • 2024 06 06, The Wildhearts, Shepherds Bush Empire, London

SETLIST: 

Sleepaway
Diagnosis
Suckerpunch
I Wanna Go Where the People Go
Caffeine Bomb
Slaughtered Authors
The Jackson Whites
Mazel Tov Cocktail
Vanilla Radio
Eventually
Everlone
Hurt People Hurt People
Chutzpah!
Encore:
Greetings From Shitsville
My Baby Is a Headfuck
Caprice

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