|Ginger's Birthday Bash - London, Kentish Town Forum - 17th December 2012|
|Written by Ben Hughes|
|Wednesday, 09 January 2013 02:30|
The Wildhearts and me we have some history, 20 years of it to be precise. Since that first time I witnessed Ginger and the boys back in February '92 supporting The Manics at Cardiff Uni I have been hooked on them. I could chat for hours to you about my love for them over the years, but this review ain't about history it's about an evening that is destined to go down in history.
I have never been to Ginger's Birthday Bash before, usually an intimate affair in a smaller venue. This year it's a different matter all together as tonight sees the return of The Wildhearts for the first time since wrapping up the Chutzpah! Tour at the tail end of 2009. Some thought it would never happen again, even Ginger said that part of his life was over, but they just keep coming back, proof that you can't keep a good band down.
Ginger has made a point of letting it be known that he wants no filming from the audience tonight, he simply wants everyone to just enjoy the evening. No cameras are to be used and anyone caught filming will have theirs removed. It is to be filmed professionally tonight for future download release and was to be streamed to Pledgers only (this unfortunately didn't happen due to technical difficulties). Made even more special is the fact that the support band just happens to be the Ginger Wildheart band, riding high on the success of this year's multiple Pledge campaigns including the just released 'Hey! Hello!' album there is much to celebrate tonight. I have seen The Wildhearts more than any other band, and Ginger solo as well, but never together on the same night in London, and with surprises promised I and a few thousand other people are just a teeny bit excited. It's my final gig of the year and it promises to be a special one.
Walking on to the stage in front of a sold out Forum tonight the lone Ginger breaks straight in to 'Just Another Song About Someone', no grand entrance, none of the expected 'Another Spinning Fucking Rainbow' type sing-a-long to start the night. Just the birthday boy and his telecaster singing one of the sweetest little songs from the glorious '555%' triple album. An intimate start to a not so intimate evening, the rest of the band slowly walk on to join him, including Chris Catalyst and Jon Poole switching instruments for the opening song. Then it's straight into 'How I Survived The Punk Wars' the first track to be aired from the new 'Hey! Hello' album, and what a song. Lyrically it has Ginger giving advice Dr Seuss style about how best to go about forming and being in a successful band, live it sounds mighty, as does the first of two SG5 tracks aired tonight, the glam rock stomp of the sublime 'Girls Are Better Than Boys' fits perfectly with the more than animated band and it sounds stunning tonight.
The livewire nutcase known as Alex Kane (yes, he of AntiProduct) made it over from the States for this show after getting his arm twisted virtually by fans over on the 'All Things Wildhearts' Facebook group and he joins the band for the last two songs. A storming run through of Cheap Trick's 'Surrender' and SG5's 'Sonic Shake' making a fantastic set closer. The band did a great job even when suffering some technical problems, Ginger even losing his guitar sound for a while, a great set from a great band.
I stood near the back to watch the support band tonight but made the decision that I was going to witness The Wildhearts from the front, in the pit is the place to be, right? So as soon as the support band finished centre stage front was where we headed.
The anticipation is high as we mix with fans old and new, some I found out were not even born when I first saw this band, but all love them as much as the other, there is a great camaraderie between Wildhearts fans, many have known each other for a long time and a Wildhearts gig is as much a social meet up as any get together. The talk turns to what they will open with, would it be 'Shitsville'?, 'I Wanna Go..' maybe? Personally I was hoping for 'S.I.N.(In Sin)', but I wasn't expecting what they did open with.
The last time I heard them play those opening chords to 'Nothing Ever Changes But The Shoes' was in Bristol '94 if my memory serves me correct, and the goosebumps rise again as they did that evening. As the song intro builds, seeing the silhouettes of the band members behind the black curtain that enveloped the stage is a moment that I will remember every time I listen to this song now. As it kicks in, the black curtain drops, immediately draping over Ginger's mic stand and it topples to the floor. Roadies scramble around the stage, glitter cannons explode covering everyone in the front rows, no one cares because The Wildhearts sound awesome, and for the next hour and a half they play the soundtrack to my twenties and I am in heaven. Anthem follows anthem, riff follows riff, 'TV Tan' second song for fuck's sake, then 'Sick Of Drugs', by the time they hit 'Dreaming In A' I am ecstatic and to be honest if it had all ended there, six songs in, I could have gone home a happy man indeed.
The sound is great, the band dressed head to toe in black, look healthy and sound magnificent. Ginger, in Exit International t-shirt and leather jacket, his Les Paul slung firmly in place, smiles like he means it. The pairing of Ginger and CJ vocally and guitar wise is what it's all about really, Jon Poole replacing the sadly missed Scott Sorry on bass is as much a member of The Wildhearts these days as anyone else and there is no one more perfect to be placed on that drum stool as Ritch Battersby is there?
With a carefully planned and rehearsed set the band are tight and loving it as much as we are. Addressing the crowd Ginger makes his point about cameras, saying "if you see someone in front of you holding a camera up filming, grab it and throw it up here on stage."
From the off it felt like a celebration, some may have complained it lacked the intimacy of previous Birthday Bashes and that the set was predictable and safe. Look at that set list below, what do you think? I personally couldn't have asked for anything better, if I was to pick songs to take to the end of the world party they would all be there.
After the sing-a-long that is 'Someone That Won't Let You Go' and my favourite 'Chutzpah!' track 'Mazel Tov Cocktail', it's the turn of the tracks that mosh pits were created for. In quick succession the pairing of 'Caffeine Bomb' and 'Suckerpunch' send the place wild, there is nothing quite like the mixed feelings of excitement, adrenaline and fear as your chest is crushed between a horde of singing and sweating fellow Wildhearts fans, I have missed that feeling. Dodging the crowd surfers and singing every word I can't think of anywhere I would rather be right now.
After the break that is 'Geordie In Wonderland' we are treated to another classic b-side and personal favourite of mine, 'Beautiful Thing You', by now I am hoarse and can't hear the lyrics I am attempting to sing but I don't care as the atmosphere is fantastic.
Wrapping up the main set with '29 x The Pain' and a brilliant 'Love U Til I Don't' I am wondering what could make this evening any better, could it possibly get any better? After the now compulsory 'Don't Worry 'Bout Me' crowd sing-a-long, CJ returns to the stage and strikes out that riff to 'Nita Nitro' with Rich's backing the place gets ready to erupt and we all know what's coming as it kicks in we jump as one, not for the first time this evening and not for the last.
Still we get more as Ginger introduces his son Jake to the crowd, and on comes manager Gav with a birthday cake and we sing Happy Birthday before a run through of 'Vanilla Radio' with Jake on guitar, if he had any nerves for his first gig they did not show. His father has taught him well.
Unfortunately for us the last train home beckons and the final song we catch is a cover of The Cardiacs' 'Is This The Life' with Jon Poole on vocals, Oaf's Dom Lawson on bass, and The Cardiacs guitarist Kavus Torabi and Chris Catalyst join them on guitar. Oh yeah and also a certain Ginger on the drums.
It didn't end there as we missed Warner E Hodges and Jef Streatfield join them as well as everybody from both bands for the finale of 'I Wanna Go Where The People Go'.
I really hope the recorded video and audio do tonight justice because from where I was standing it sounded amazing, the energy and atmosphere were electric. I have seen a lot of bands this last year, a lot of great bands, and as far as what I want from a gig, tonight had it all. It doesn't get any better than that, the band delivered on all fronts. God bless The Wildhearts, it's good to have them back.
Ginger Wildheart Band - Full Setlist
Just Another Song About Someone
The Wildhearts - Full Setlist
Nothing Ever Changes But The Shoes
[Photos by Trudi Knight Photography]