CJ Wildheart - Leeds, The Fox & Newt - 7th June 2014 Print E-mail
Written by Ben Hughes   
Tuesday, 24 June 2014 04:00

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Tonight I join just a handful of fellow Pledgers for a private acoustic gig in a tiny pub just a short walk from Leeds City Centre. In a space the size of my living room the Wildhearts guitarist will play one of only two exclusive shows billed as 'An Evening With CJ'. In this intimate setting for our money we are promised a signed CD and poster, a meet & greet with the man himself and a 45 minute solo set by CJ, playing songs from his recently released solo album, 'Mable', plus choice retrospective cuts from the likes of Honeycrack and The Jellys. Now that alone made me hit the Pledge button straight away, but what we got on the night was something even more special. CJ was joined tonight by a few of his close friends in the form of Chris Catalyst, Random Jon Poole and Willie Dowling to play some great tunes for us in a venue that holds a maximum of 70 people.

 

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CJ and Chris take to the stage first for the majority of the set. Before playing, CJ tells us how he is not used to this sort of thing, how he is used to hiding behind electric guitar and distortion, at last night's gig in London he was feeling a bit nervous and out of his comfort zone, but he tells us how he really enjoyed it.

 

They open with an unfamiliar Jellys track, The Jellys are probably the only Wildhearts related band that I don't own an album by, yet I seem to know these songs anyway: how is that possible? The set contains several of those gems, from the ridiculously catchy 'Lemonade Girl' on to 'A Big Trip' that CJ affectionately dedicates to its writer and his friend Stidi (where are you Stidi?). As these songs are played I find myself wondering how this album passed me by. Luckily The Jellys album 'Welcome To My World' is on sale tonight and after the gig money exchanged hands.

 

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Of course it's not all about The Jellys tonight, CJ is here promoting his cracking new album 'Mable', possibly my album of the year, and first up from that album is my current favourite track from it, 'Kentucky Fried'. Live and acoustic it loses none of its power and energy, in fact it sounds downright awesome, probably the catchiest song of the year. 'Always Believe Her' has us singing and 'Down The Drain' seems to have turned into an anthem all of a sudden. CJ and Chris' voices compliment each other well and it's great to be reminded what a great bloody singer CJ is to be honest. He explains to us the origins of some of the songs and his excitement at the prospect of becoming a father.

 

As if this lot wasn't enough already Willie joins them and takes centre stage for a couple of Honeycrack songs, then Jon Poole for a couple more: yes, four Honeycrack songs in a row! Acoustic and with plenty of drinks inside us they sound sublime, Willie apologises for being the drunkest there and if he was it didn't show, how good it is to see them up there together playing those songs. There's three quality lead vocalists and frontmen in their own right up there I think to myself as they break into a great version of 'Go Away' that has the whole room singing away, nostalgic? Well it sure brings back great memories of the Honeycrack days that's for sure. As Jon Poole takes to the stage in his pork pie hat the band snigger and tell us he has never actually seen Breaking Bad...yes Random does look a bit like Heisenberg tonight.

 

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'King Of Misery', 'Animals' and of course 'Sitting At Home' was it, in that order? I was so drunk and excited by the end I can't even remember, but I do remember it sounded bloody fantastic. If there was ever any proof needed that a Honeycrack reunion would be welcomed with opened arms you need only to have heard the reaction from the crowd to these four songs, brilliant end to a quality set.

 

Post gig, the queue for the meet & greet seems longer and has more people in it than were actually at the gig, but we all wait around to stagger on to the stage to get stuff signed and have a photo with a genuinely humble and nice man who seems happy to stand and chat all night.

 

We have CJ's manager Gav to thank for tonight's special show, it was a definite success, this is the sort of thing PledgeMusic was set up for. Fan interaction and making you feel part of something special, a once in a lifetime experience that can never be repeated.

 

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Drinks flowed and in a bizarre twist I very nearly had Random coming back to York for the night, so he could grab a lift to Bristol with my mate Ade who had travelled today from Cardiff for this gig. His drunken plans were eventually scuppered by a concerned Chris and Willie who informed him he was actually needed for rehearsals tomorrow. The rest of the night is pretty hazy but we somehow made it back to York with CDs and posters remarkably intact.

 

It's good to have CJ back and this was a great return to the live stage. Seeing him out of his comfort zone in intimate surroundings and triumph with such a positive response was a great thing to experience and hey those guys make a great band, all they need is a drummer...now where the hell is Ritch Battersby when you need him!

 

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Photo credit to Ewan Cawood & www.facebook.com/phoskeeto