Gig Review: The Wildhearts – Albert Halls, Stirling (21 September 2021)

(c) Shaun Hulme

It’s been 1 year, 7 months and 6 days. Or 584 days. No matter how you quantify it, it’s been a long time since I got to experience live music. And who better to blow away the cobwebs than the fucking Wildhearts? Add in that it’s been over two years since I last saw Ginger and co. as they conquered Bloodstock and there’s no band better suited to welcoming it back into our lives.

With The Wildhearts recently releasing their new album, 21st Century Love Songs, there’s a sense they’ve made a conscientious choice not to hit the usual stop of Glasgow in a UK tour and this marks my first ever Stirling gig, despite working there for six months. Speaking of work – the paid job decided to get in the way and I didn’t get to the Albert Halls until they were coming on-stage with “Diagnosis”. And I’m hit with that sound. The unmistakable and unbeatable combination of a Les Paul plugged into a Marshall. That sound that many others have tried to emulate or supersede and it’s never been done. It’s good to be back.

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Full of their trademark energy and working as a well-oiled machine, it’s like they’ve never been away – though to be fair to them, they had a couple of summer festivals and we’re quite a ways into the tour by now. Whilst there’s a whole lot of reverb initially with Rich Battersby’s drums sounded like they were in a tin can and Ginger’s vocals buried. However, after a couple of songs, it was more or less remedied but Ginger’s vocals were still a touch muted. But it’s simply a minor niggle and a reminder of how quickly we forget these things after a time away from it and that some things never change (nor should they).

(c) Shaun Hulme

There’s a strange atmosphere in the air tonight – one of apprehension with many people standing far back (myself included), much of them scattered around and keeping their distance between one another. But there’s a welcome collection of people formed up, front and centre and bouncing away as if their lives depended on it. Ginger remarks on the more sedate nature – it’s not quite Edinburgh-level lethargy and as a town which isn’t a usual stopping point compared to Glasgow, the Stirling crowd are wanting to take it easy and enjoy it rather than go all out as you would expect. But there’s a group of people next to me who were stood next to me who sang and danced the entire time, making use of their space without bumping into others and not being loutish about it – they’re simply lost in music and it’s a joy to see people do that after so long away.

As the band blast through their set and make a point to visit many of their storied era, Renaissance Men gets the strongest showing with the afore-mentioned “Diagnosis”, “Dislocated” and “Let “Em Go”. Interestingly, the band don’t rely too much on new material with only “Splitter” and “Remember These Days” but it’s The Wildhearts – they don’t play by the rules. Full of chunky riffs and thick chords, they’re as in love with their own music without arrogance, smiles never far from their faces and crowd participation points are hit without cue. Whilst they didn’t play all my favourites, they have in other instances when I’ve seen them and they more than likely played someone else’s favourites instead. Admittedly, it would have been great to hear the bouncy “Sleepaway” from the new album but since they hit the staple of “Sick of Drugs” – the upbeat bouncy number was more than covered in this instance.

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With a healthy-sized encore, the band take their final applause to the strains of “I Wanna Go Where the People Go” and it’s as glorious as ever. Whilst they’ve been on a tear these last few years, tonight was The Wildhearts kicking back but still delivering as only they can do. Unflinching in the sight of a spacious room rather than packed in like sardines and battering through as many songs as they could, consummate professionals and as always, aim to make sure every person enjoys themselves. And it would appear they did.

Photos by Shaun Hulme

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