London Camden Koko
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.