If you’d told me this time, last year that The Wildhearts would release my favourite album of 2019 thus far, I’d have told you to fuck off. However, since their Steelhouse performance last year, they’ve since become one of my favourite live acts and tonight was set to be my third time seeing them in just over nine months. Add in a couple of great support bands to the bill and you’ve got a brilliant Saturday night on your hands.
Towers of London kick things off in style. Full of energy, the five-piece take up the entire space of the stage with a presence which makes you think there’s double their number onstage. Decked out in matching jumpsuits, their high energy persists for the duration of the set and it’s obvious there are fans in the front row, going by the fact they’re singing along with every word. If The Clash had come around at the same time as tonight’s headliners, this is what they would have sounded like. Firing through song after song, they make the most of their short set and batter through as many songs as they can. Marrying venom with energy and drawing influence from punk’s origins, they’re a tight outfit and a perfect fit for tonight’s bill.
Massive Wagons continue the momentum, as is to be expected. The straight-forward, no-nonsense classic rock may take the night in a slight twist but it works. Because like their touring partners, there’s no bullshit involved. The recent history (and future dates) is something of a fairy tale in the modern music landscape but it shows that if you put the graft in, it’ll pay off. It’s no secret they’ve got a diehard fanbase so it’s not surprising that they walk onstage to a packed venue and a rapturous greeting. As a live act, they’re as tight and as energetic as ever with staples like “Back to the Stack”, “Ratio” and “Fee Fi Fo Fum” saved for the end of their set. Meanwhile, the more recent “China Plates” is one of the best swipes at Facebook in recent memory. However, it’s got to be commended that “Tokyo” wasn’t in the set, more bands should be brave enough to not rely on the obvious songs.
As The Wildhearts explode onto the stage with “Dislocated” from Renaissance Men, the crowd spring into life and surge to the middle to get a piece of the action. And it’s something they maintain for the duration of the band’s time onstage, as if they were saving their energy for the headliners. What follows is a career-spanning set in the truest sense, pulling from most of their releases over the years with Ginger even throwing in a glib joke about Endless Nameless’ “Urge”.
Whilst they do try to pull from every corner, some albums get more love than others, such as Earth Vs The Wildhearts. Sure, they may have just toured it in full at the tail end of the year but it’s such a great album that they may as well play half of it. The more surprising move of the evening is despite touring in support of their first album in a decade, Renaissance Men’s appearance is fairly minimum which is a shame since it’s among their best. Sure, for the general public, the songs are barely a day old but the other two they play – its title track and “Let ‘Em Go” go down a storm and they could have pulled another couple from it. However, if that’s the aspect of the night that even comes close to a negative, you know it’s been a great night.
Despite only being two nights into the tour, the band are playing better than I’ve ever seen them, you can only imagine that it’s going to be better every night as they blast their way to the end of the month with headlining the inaugural Call of the Wild. There’s a tangible chemistry between the four of them onstage and as they give it their all, you can tell they’re having a lot of fun performing in front of a sold-out crowd.
With a lengthy encore and a bill they genuinely care about, you can never accuse The Wildhearts of not giving people their money’s worth. As they relentlessly pummel their way through their set, by the time they leave the stage for the second and last time, there’s a definite sense that whilst they gave it everything they had, they could have easily kept playing for another hour. And if they still want to do this, it’s pretty obvious from the reaction of the crowd that you can bet the people will still turn out in their droves for it.
Photos by Gary Cooper Photography