CJ Wildheart / VH-YES / Flowerpot - Bristol, Thekla - 25th February 2016 Print E-mail
Written by Gaz Tidey   
Wednesday, 09 March 2016 03:00



With Wildhearts-related conditions being diagnosed as borderline obsessive it was a little disappointing to walk the plank onto one of the greatest venues in England to find the Thekla's hull severely devoid of paying punters willing to do the robot with a founding member of one of the greatest bands this kingdom has ever produced.


Sure, The Cult were across town with no shortage of fans willing to worship at their Sonic Temple, and the Thekla's stupid 10pm curfew prior to club night ruling may well have put some people off when looking to make a night of it but, c'mon; CJ, on a boat, playing songs from his two latest, and fantastic, solo albums, 'Mable' and 'Robot', and with promised appearances from Honeycrack and Jellys tunes? Who wouldn't want a piece of that song sorcery? You can bet your sweet bippy it wouldn't be me.




Opening the night, and to a healthy if small crowd, local all-girl three-piece Flowerpot immediately reminded me why I'd fallen under their spell when I caught them supporting The Runaways' Cherie Currie at the tail end of last year. In the short months since then the band appears swollen with confidence and their brand of eighties pop-smeared alt. rock is infectious. We have them playing at an Uber Rock-sponsored gig in June so you can all discover their qualities for yourselves. The main support slot on the tour was taken by VH-YES, fronted by the enigmatic Tina V and featuring Dave Draper (better known for his knob-twiddling for the likes of Hey! Hello! and Magic Eight Ball among others) on guitar, whose oft-dreamlike pop rock was melancholic and almost memorable, the band a few massive hooks short of making a dent in the mass consciousness.




With little fanfare - not that there was time for any with the crazy curfew - CJ Wildheart and band took to the stage and ploughed straight into the almost-title track of new album, 'Robot'. One thing that CJ's last two albums, 2014's 'Mable' and this year's music model, certainly don't lack is memorable songs and, with a ten-song main set constructed entirely from the choicest cuts from those two platters, the terrific tunes came thick, fast, and swathed in choruses that demanded the small yet boisterous crowd sing them right back at the band in various degrees of vocal talent.


'The Box' and 'Kentucky Fried' punched out, before CJ spoke, quietly, of how he'd been advised by doctors not to talk to save his virus-hit voice. Not a natural frontman by any stretch of the imagination, the main man appeared to loosen up with this admission, speaking more and more between songs as the set went on. Savvy Wildhearts fans in attendance even had their funny bones tickled when CJ actually told the sound guy that he couldn't hear CJ's guitar.....




If you're struggling then it must be a great feeling to look over to your left and see a bona fide frontman bouncing around and knocking out your setlist with consummate ease: CJ's decision to bring Eureka Machines' Chris Catalyst into his band for this tour a definite masterstroke.


The aforementioned 'Kentucky Fried' got its 'Mable' brethren, 'Down The Drain' and 'Next To You', following in quick succession, before things got ever more robotic with 'Light It Up' and 'Ctrl-Alt-Delete'. A quick dip back into chicken-infested waters with 'Always Believe Her' preceded a rollicking one-two of the massive (in all senses of the word) 'Sasquatch' and 'F.U.B.A.R.'


Reneging the chance to do the old 'walk off/walk back on' encore cliché, the band (completed by Elliot Vaughn on drums and Zen Motel's Lee Wray on bass) tore straight into The Jellys (CJ's former band with once-Wildhearts bandmate Stidi and Wolfsbane's Jeff Hateley/D'Brini) pairing of 'A Big Trip' and 'Lemonade Girl', but, for me, the best was yet to come...




Worth the (very reasonable) admission fee alone was a glorious couple of songs from 'Prozaic', the must-have debut (and, sadly, only official studio) album from Honeycrack, the outstanding nineties band formed by CJ and a man once known as "Willie from The Grip" who we later got to know as Willie Dowling. If you're at a gig that ends at 10pm, the band plays the gorgeous 'Go Away' and 'Sitting At Home' and you don't sing every word at the top of your voice, spitting iconic words until you're hoarse, then you deserve to go home disappointed in yourself. Disappointment was not what this paying punter felt....


Criminally lacking Tattooed Love Boys tunes - I jest - yet keeping its head above water without the need to dip into the Wildhearts back catalogue, CJ's setlist had thrills and spills all of its own.


Back in the car to face the wild goose chase of Bristol's late night motorway maintenance hijinks at the decidedly un-RnR hour of 10 o'clock I couldn't help but think of that Wildhearts back catalogue, however; especially as CJ had just said that he'd be back in the city with his "other band" later in the year.....




[Photos by the lothario Rob Watkins]


To pick up your copy of 'Robot' - CLICK HERE