The Wildhearts warm up in rare fashion in Harlow · Words by Kris Coverdale
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I'm wedged between chain smoking man to my left, whirling dervish pointy elbowed woman to the front and a camera wielding maniac to my right. All this in a venue as hot as Satan's asshole and twice as cramped.
But it doesn't matter.
Because this is The Wildhearts - a band whose name magazines now habitually prefix with the word legendary.
And much as they've been renowned as a great live band, throughout that time the setlist has generally featured fairly conservative favourites. Tonight however that all changes, and if it's a sign of things to come, then their adventurousness could take them to newfound heights. The set tonight gives air to several early songs that newer fans missed first time around and a liberal sprinkling of b-sides and rarities along with the well played classics that we've come to expect.
They kick off with a stunning one-two of circa '94 set opener Nothing Ever Changes But The Shoes, closely followed by oft-overlooked Earth Vs classic 'News of the World', which highlights the metallic riff-work that attracted many of the band's initial fans from the days of supporting Pantera and playing the Donington festival, but with the melodies, attitude and wordplay that characterise almost all their output.
Thirteen minute epic Sky Babies is next up as the rarities continue. They show their character midway through as there's momentary confusion with the drums suddenly out of time, but the band shrug and laugh it off, keeping things together when once upon a time it might all have come apart. Stand-in bassist Jon Poole is providing an extra visual focus onstage; he's all action, sticking his tongue out at the girls, high fiving the boys and running about like a lunatic all the while providing brilliant melodic basslines that enhance the songs no end. Meanwhile (back on my planet) Ginger & CJ's grins get wider & wider at the dedicated fan atmosphere permeating the shoebox of a venue and Stidi is drumming so hard he nearly rips his finger off! (necessitating a very short delay)
Miles Away Girl, another rarely played Earth Vs track receives a rapturous reception, especially as an unexpected twist is revealed. Instead of the normal bass middle 8, Jon Poole plays the bassline from Grease's Summer Nights. The crowd look stunned for a second before the band crash through a high octane Summer Nights chorus before returning to Miles Away Girl.
Another obscurity is unveiled with Dangerlust, culminating in an atmospheric outro with Stidi's drumming reaching a primal perfection while Ginger shows he's been getting some practice in, ripping out a fast & tuneful wah pedal solo.
Ginger comments 'The trouble is we've got too many great songs - we want to stay here all weekend and play them all' before asking for requests and throwing his mike into the crowd. He's promptly taken aback as (recent vinyl bside) 'Return to Zero' is called out. After a quick cheer-o-meter poll several past singles are fired out in quick succession. Suckerpunch is particularly impressive and was surely written with strobe lighting in mind.
All those who see The Wildhearts as an exercise in nostalgia should be shamed as setclosers and recent singles Vanilla Radio and Stormy in the North attract the biggest cheers of the night, proving the band are certainly still able to produce instant classics in these days of nu metal and garage rock. The forthcoming album ('The Wildhearts Must Be Destroyed') will no doubt sprinkle the live set with yet more.
But for now this was a soon to be legendary show by the already legendary Wildhearts.
Nothing Ever Changes But The Shoes
News Of The World
Miles Away Girl
Sick Of Drugs