The Wild­hearts

London Cam­den Koko

Classic Rock - - Live! - Johnny Sharp

Ginger and co. over­come hur­dles both phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal on their 25th-an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion of the band’s de­but al­bum.

Some­how, The Wild­hearts es­caped their cer­tain fate. In the­ory, their short, ri­otous, fire­work ca­reer should have been blown to smithereens across the skies of rock’n’roll some time in the early 90s.

Af­ter their tragic death in a Shitsville bed­sit gas ex­plo­sion, their rep­u­ta­tion as the best and bright­est Bri­tish Rock’n’roll band of their gen­er­a­tion would now be unas­sail­able. And their only full-length al­bum, 1993’s Earth Vs The Wild­hearts, would be hailed world­wide as a time­less clas­sic.

In­stead, 25 years later we’re here to see the re­assem­bled same line-up per­form that al­bum in full, along with a clutch of other great songs from their stut­ter­ing, stop-start record­ing ca­reer that fol­lowed.

Ad­mit­tedly the band haven’t sur­vived en­tirely un­scathed; they are but a seven-and-a-half-legged riff ma­chine these days, due to bas­sist Danny Mc­Cor­mack’s lower limb am­pu­ta­tion in 2016, and their orig­i­nal plan to sup­port them­selves on this tour as The Moodswingers was scup­pered af­ter doc­tors ad­vised Ginger that his vo­cal cords might never re­cover.

Not that he needs to do a great deal in Greet­ings From Shitsville be­yond play the open­ing bars once they launch into it; the en­tire first half of the song is belted out by a faith­ful au­di­ence that still stress the rude word in ‘shitsville’ as lustily as they did when they were 15.

The mosh­pit might be less chaotic than it was at their gigs back in ’93, but au­di­ence en­gage­ment is at an all-time high. So is The Wild­hearts’ need to do this. “Re­ally fuck­ing ready for a @thewil­d­hearts show tonight,” Ginger an­nounced on Twit­ter. “Few demons to ex­pel tonight.”

At first the fa­mously moody front­man seems riled, rant­ing about the light­ing (“It’s like we’re in a fuckin’ porn movie”) as he takes the stage, but not for long. They barely even pause for breath un­til af­ter a tur­bocharged de­liv­ery of Caf­feine Bomb, by which time he’s charm­ing us with flat­ter­ing (and frankly in­ac­cu­rate) ob­ser­va­tions that we “must have been sperm twen­ty­five years ago”.

Danny, man­ag­ing a gal­lant four songs up­right tonight, adds to the sense that this is a band who have some­how cheated the Grim Reaper. In his flat cap, the bas­sist re­sem­bles Brian John­son af­ter he died and then rose from the grave feel­ing a lit­tle peaky. Ginger’s TV tan is glow­ing with re­an­i­mated pal­lor, and although gui­tarist CJ doesn’t seem to have aged be­yond a hair­cut and a hat, and drum­mer Ritch Bat­tersby grins through­out, there’s a car­toon­ish look about them, like the men rock’n’roll couldn’t kill.

Mean­while, here comes Loveshit and yet an­other great riff and ir­re­sistible cho­rus, fol­lowed by a sin­ga­long to the soiled ser­e­nade of The Miles Away Girl and then My Baby Is A Head­fuck, an­other mag­nif­i­cent ne’er-do-well’s potty-mouthed an­them. And you know this is the an­tithe­sis of those shows where the back half of the au­di­ence are chat­ting among them­selves when a hall-full of pint pots in the air greets the line “raise a glass to the un­der­world”.

When that’s fol­lowed by the stac­cato frenzy of Sucker Punch, you’re re­minded that Earth Vs The Wild­hearts was one of the great 90s rock al­bums, burst­ing with hooks, ideas, wit, en­ergy and arena-sized cho­ruses. It should have been a Hys­te­ria for the great un­washed, but wrong place, wrong time, wrong drugs… Oh well. Just be thank­ful we can cel­e­brate them, still in one piece (give or take).

As they en­core with an­other half-hour of cu­rios and fan favourites, in­clud­ing Danny step­ping up to the mic for Ge­ordie In Won­der­land (“gor­geous” is how Ginger rather char­i­ta­bly de­scribes Danny’s voice), we’d much rather be part of this mod­est but mad-for-it cult. 1995 sin­gle I Wanna Go Where The Peo­ple Go is the belt­ing, joy­ous fi­nale, con­firm­ing that while the peo­ple haven’t al­ways re­cip­ro­cated over the years, it’s their loss. Earth ver­sus The Wild­hearts? Not al­ways a fair fight, but tonight we saw a thump­ing away win.

CJ and Ginger: barely even paus­ing for breath un­til af­ter a turbo-charged Caf­feine Bomb. Rich Bat­tersby: grin­ning from start to fin­ish.Danny Mc­Cor­mack steps up to the mic for Ge­ordie In Won­der­land.

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