By Kris | November 9, 2000
SilverGinger 5 Live at the Scala, London · 9th November 2000 · Review by Darren Stockford, photos by Clay Roberts
“If something started to go wrong, we’d just think, what would Iggy do?”
Ginger’s standing in the upstairs bar explaining the method behind his band’s madness. Two hours earlier they’d launched the starship SilverGinger in a manner so damned rude it’d have whipped the knickers off a nun given half a chance (it certainly whipped someone’s small black lacys off – they landed on stage, much to the delight of Conny and Ginger).
London has probably never seen a show like this in a club this size. With flashpots, glitterbombs, fireworks, and more bangs per minute than that fuzzy, overplayed vid you keep in the bottom of your underwear drawer, this was a show in the truest sense of the word. Even without the pyro, this would have been a spectacle of Spielbergian proportions. Great washes of white light rose up and reflected off the glitter paper that was littering the stage, making it look, from my vantage point in the balcony at least, as if the band were playing on a lake of something hot and glowing. They say that when you die and take the walk down that long, dark tunnel, you see a brilliant white light at the end beckoning you. Hmm, you thinking what I am? SilverGinger 5 are a band who’ll gladly take that stick out of your arse and poke it in your eye.
It wasn’t just the chlorine-like chemicals from the firepots that brought a tear to my peepers tonight, though (and boy, did those li’l devils sting). When Ginger threw his mic into the crowd and let us get on with it as the opening riff to 29 x The Pain started up, the Scala suddenly became a church, with music the preacher. “Give me old, give me new, let me know you feel it too.” It may have been one of the oldies as far as tonight’s set was concerned, but this really did feel like there was “a brave new world” just around the corner. “I’m up, how can I get down when I’ve got all my friends around?” Ginger gestured to the crowd and we knew exactly what he meant. Shortly afterwards, he launched into an impassioned speech, marvelling at the fact that the show had sold out without the aid of the press, promotion or a record company, and thanking the fans on the ‘Net who’d turned a dream into something he could actually touch.
Back in the bar, Ginger’s still glowing from the warmth of tonight’s show. He says that he always knew it was going to be a great night, but reading the messages of excitement posted on The Wildhearts Mailing List, and the numerous goodwill emails he’s had over the past couple of weeks, had pushed him to almost coronary-inducing levels of anticipation. There was no way that this could be anything other than one of the best shows of his life. Failure was not an option. And all, apparently, because of Iggy and the Stooges. A picture of the punk legends hanging at the back of the Scala bar reminded the band that, no matter what happened tonight, they shouldn’t let it bother them, the cry “what would Iggy do?” becoming a kind of pre-show mantra.
So, when he’d had enough of his first guitar, Ginger just took it off and chucked it into the audience, fetching Old Faithful (his sticker-covered friend) from the wings and carrying on as if nothing had happened. Mic problems? Just let go and let the crowd do the work. Guitar trouble? Just hurl the instrument to the floor and wait for it to come back fixed. There was a time when a guitar-less Ginger looked a bit uncomfortable on stage. Tonight, he prowled the stage as if he’d really always wanted to be a frontman after all, curling up into a ball during The Monkey Zoo (“a song about monkeys”) and screaming the middle-eight in a manner that would’ve made Arthur Janov proud.
Not that Ginger needs to worry too much about being the sole draw here. Even before guitarist Conny took over the lead vocals on Girls Are Better Than Boys, it was blindingly obvious that he’s made of quality frontman material too. Though his guitar seemed to be annoyingly low in the mix for the first half of the set, his personality and stage presence blasted their way through the light show and started ricocheting around the venue’s walls from lift-off. It was a pleasure to see a bona fide, long-haired, rock ‘n’ roll guitar hero doing his stuff. There ain’t too many of ’em around these days (though they seem to breed ’em in Sweden – S$666’s You Smell Canadian got an airing tonight in dedication), the life having been sucked out of the art by a decade of miserable munchkins who’d rather be creating “aural soundscapes” than lifting people’s hearts.
Bassist Jon Poole has quite an imposing presence too. Maybe it’s the shiny dome, maybe it’s the natty whistle. It might even be the way he throws himself with absolutely full force into his backing vocals (he appeared to be in his element on the harder numbers like Motorvate and Inglorious). ‘Course, like a lot of imposing stage presences, he turns out to be a nice guy (our brief conversation about footwear – he’s a Converse lover too – was enough to convince me that I should cut down on my mileage. He reckons he can make a pair last ten years. I’ve had my current pair for just two and they’re already coming apart at the seams). Visually, he may not be the long-haired rock ‘n’ roll reprobate that Ginger had in mind when he advertised the post earlier this year, but the weight of his reputation as someone who’ll do anything brings a bit of danger – or, some might say, randomness – to the band. Which is exactly what Doctor G ordered. Whether or not Jon’s inclusion in SG5 is a permanent arrangement (he’s still a Cardiac, and with the possibility of clashing commitments as the band picks up steam, I’d imagine that he’ll have to let go at some point), he’s already left a sizable mark.
And, at the end of the day, sizable marks are what this band are all about. All or nothing. Do or die. I’ve never met a casual Wildhearts fan, and judging by the super-charged atmosphere in the Scala this evening, I’m unlikely to meet a SilverGinger 5 fan who thinks “they’re all right, I s’pose.” Ginger keeps saying tonight that it’s because of the fervour of the fans that this thing’s taking flight. But, as we all know, it’s because of his songs – those tunes that weld themselves to our hearts, twisting our innards into strange shapes, and reminding us that, despite the daily crap, life really is special – that that fervour keeps on growing.
Waking up the next morning after a three-hour journey home to south London (don’t ask) and far too little sleep, I pull open the curtains to be greeted with a burst of sunshine and the bluest sky I’ve seen for months. There isn’t a cloud in sight. After weeks of floods and hurricanes, this is… weird.
But oh, so damned right.
Thanks to Clay for the photos (used with permission) – to see more of Clay’s Scala pix visit http://www.lyvmusic.co.uk/