The Ginger Wildheart Band / Ryan Hamilton & the Traitors / Massive Wagons - Bristol, The Exchange - 12th July 2016 Print E-mail
Written by Gaz Tidey   
Thursday, 21 July 2016 03:00

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It's never the songs you have to worry about when anticipating an upcoming tour from Ginger Wildheart - not THOSE songs - it's more a case of the mood, of the tone, and, Jeez, if the first night of this tour, housed in intimate surroundings primed for an audio family gathering, didn't set the entire UK run up as being one of the finest for some time from the tempestuous titian then I don't know what would have.

 

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Massive Wagons remind me of one of those late eighties/early nineties British bands that Kerrang! used to champion. You know, the ones who didn't really have the looks that killed, or the hit singles in waiting, but live, man, they'd just blow you away and have a shit-ton of fun doing it. Yep, that's Massive Wagons down to a tee... and I'm sure the sweaty patrons of Bristol's fine Exchange venue - packed out for Tuesday Night Music Club - would heartily agree. A snapped guitar string in the first song (guitar malfunction would be a regular occurrence on the night) didn't even warrant a change of instrument; instead, the band ploughed through their frenetic set in some style, frontman Baz Mills ever the livewire, the crowd lapping it up like straight-ahead hard rock Manna from Heaven.

 

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The sound in the labyrinthian confines of the venue was LOUD with a capital wince, and that should really have put a bit of a dampener on the sweet 'n' subtle power pop sounds of Ryan Hamilton & the Traitors but, happily, the songs were simply too infectious to have something like a rock sound spoil the sun-drenched pop sensibilities of these hook explosions in song form. With a cut-off Styx shirt and hair/bandana combination that paid a timely homage to the SuperBrat, John McEnroe, Hamilton's set was more balls-in than a balls-out affair, but with enough winners served up to guarantee much love from a crowd already, on the tour's opening night, ready to welcome the Texan and his songs like old friends.

 

The opening one-two of 'Karaoke With No Crowd' and 'Records and Needles' was simply sublime, the choicest cuts from the must-have 'Hell Of A Day' album slung out into the audience with effortless charm, choruses to die for, and lyrics to smile for. '4 Letter Verb' was fantastic, 'Be Kind Rewind' a higher level of 'tastic that the Oxford Dictionary has yet to discover.

 

With Traitor 74, Rob Lane, growing old gracefully by having his bass guitar now hanging around his knees rather than his ankles, and Hamilton himself painting himself as the nicest guy in the room with every moment of between-song banter, this set, even on the first night of the tour, and in front of many people that had never seen him live before, was never going to fail. I could listen to Ryan Hamilton all night; instead I had to make do with around forty-five minutes... but each one was something special.

 

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With the frantic Denzel on the drum stool, the ever-cool Toshi on bass, and the return of Conny Bloom (looking like he'd happened upon a can of Chernobly and a hot tub while attending Woodstock), this all-new, kinda-old line-up of The Ginger Wildheart Band promised much and, fuck me, if they didn't deliver.

 

Opening the set with a trio of songs from Silver Ginger 5's classic album, 'Black Leather Mojo', was the least we expected with the Electric Boy back on the stage, and the songs - 'Take It All Why Don't'cha', 'Anyway But Maybe', and the massive 'Sonic Shake' - hit every one of their marks. Only one other song from that epic long-player would make an appearance, the pumping 'I Wanna Be New', and Ginger's re-unleashing of his inner Blackie Lawless by utilising the wares of BC Rich would come back to bite him on the arse somewhat with neither of his guitars wanting to stay in tune for the duration of a song let alone a set, but it mattered not as the band knocked out one of the best sets I've witnessed from one of Ginger's solo outings for quite some time.

 

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It was just the tone of the set that did it for me: no lulls, just a punched-out fifteen-song set that harked back to the definitive Wildhearts blueprint - heavy, yet hook-laden. Every lyric got sung straight back at the band, even those belonging to the (arguably) lesser known tunes like 'Do You?', 'Ostracide', 'No One Smiled At Me Today', and 'That's A Nasty Habit You've Got There' from the G.A.S.S. project. The 'Valor Del Corazon' duo, 'Mother City' and 'This Is Only A Problem', were huge, the former gifted the second-best singalong of the main set. Second-best? Yeah, but only because the "whoah-oh" of 'Mazel Tov Cocktail' was to follow, its Wildhearts back catalogue brethren, 'Top Of The World', rounding out the setlist.

 

With 'Don't Worry 'Bout Me' resonating around the venue, the band returned for a stirring 'Geordie In Wonderland', bookended by a pair of songs responsible for at least a couple of hundred lost voices come Wednesday morning: the mammoth 'Vanilla Radio' and the humongous '29 x The Pain' confirming what most of those in attendance had anticipated from the opening bars of the first song: that this was one of those lightning-in-a-bottle moments that made us all fall in love with The Wildhearts and their genius songwriter of a frontman in the first place.

 

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So impressive was the first night of the tour, and so sure we were that it was the opening act of a true tour de force that we had to review more than one show on the UK run: check back next week for the return of a certain Mr. McCormack.....

 

[Photos courtesy of Rob "The Butcher" Watkins]

 

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