|The Wildhearts/Massive Wagons/The Main Grains - Nottingham, Rock City - 27 January 2017|
|Written by Ben Hughes|
|Tuesday, 14 February 2017 04:00|
So, as I ended 2016 by reviewing a Wildhearts show, I may as well start this year's live reviews the same way, eh! But this is one Wildhearts show with a difference. Following the cancellation of the Manchester date last year, due to a virus doing the rounds with the bands and crew, a rescheduled date was announced along with tonight's show at Rock City - a special one off performance of the classic 'Fishing For Luckies' album, played in its entirety.
'FFL' is up there with 'Earth Versus...' as two albums that changed my life and set the benchmark for anything that followed. Most of these songs I have never heard live; sure, I have seen The Ginger Wildheart Band do 'Do The Channel Bop' and 'Inglorious', but not this… not The Wildhearts doing the whole goddamn record! This was one not to be missed and tickets were purchased immediately.
I reckon it's been a good ten years since I was last at Rock City, it must've been when Hanoi Rocks reformed (a quick check on Wikipedia and.... shit, that was 15 years ago!). It seems smaller than I remember, and the floor is sticky as hell, maybe they haven't washed it since I was last here [they haven’t – Ed].
There's just enough time to grab a beer before The Main Grains start at the very un-rock 'n' roll time of 6.40pm. The Main Grains have got it pretty good right now, they are opening for The Wildhearts at Rock City, to a pretty much packed room already, not bad for a band at this early point of their career, but they deserve it because The Main Grains just happen to be a bit bloody good.
Danny McCormack, sat on a stool centre stage, leads the band through most of their excellent debut EP (which I purchased on snazzy red vinyl at the merch stand). Opener 'Unscrewed' sounding fresh and vibrant tonight, the band afforded a much better sound than at the Birthday Bash. While the likes of 'Happy Round Here' and 'She's A Catch' are solid, three-chord rockers, it's 'I'd Rather Be In California' that is there pop-tastic ace in the hole every time. I wonder what they have up their tattooed sleeves for us next? One things for sure, from the response tonight, The Wildhearts crowd have taken to them too.
Since Massive Wagons were announced as support there has been a lot of recommendations and I have been told by several people not to miss them. I have never heard them and was surely intrigued, I chose not to research or track down their music before tonight, I wanted to see if they would impress on first live experience alone.
OK, maybe I'm missing something here or I was just expecting The Second Coming, but to be honest I thought Massive Wagons were...ok. Sure, they put on an energetic live show and diminutive singer Baz Mills is a great frontman for sure, he has a strong voice and all the Axl Rose rock star moves, but do they have the songs? I'm not too sure on first listen, the first band that springs to mind is Jackyl, maybe they are a bit too “classic rock” for my taste.
Mind you, I felt the same sort of indifference when I saw Black Spiders supporting The Wildhearts on the Chutzpah! tour and I soon got into them. But for now Massive Wagons remind me of Jackyl and maybe I need to give the albums a listen to wipe that comparison from my head. I hope to be proved wrong.
Three rows from the front, as the lights dim to a blue haze, the crowd give an almighty cheer as the silhouettes of Ginger, CJ, Jon and Rich can be seen making their way to their positions as the taped intro of 'Inglorious' plays through the PA... the first of many goosebump moments. Seconds after that massive riff kicks in, most of my JD & Coke is in my face and someone else's hair, but no one cares as we all get lost and lose our shit for the next hour and a half.
'Inglorious' sounds amazing, the sound is ace and the band are killing it. From my position between CJ and Ginger, I can watch every riff and time change: that is when I am not getting smacked in the face by the blonde dreads of the woman standing in front of me, as she flails about in time to the rhythm of this most glorious of songs - and who can blame her? Certainly not me.
So I move to one side a bit as Ginger starts that classic riff of 'Sick Of Drugs'. Ok, this is 'FFL '96' they are playing then, a different track list to what I was expecting, but it's all good. We pogo and sweat with our hands in the air and smiles on our faces to probably two of the catchiest singles in Ginger's repertoire: the aforementioned 'Sick of Drugs' and the following 'Red Light-Green Light', they sound sublime.
Ginger then chugs out the dampened chord that usually leads into 'Miles Away Girl', but tonight it's 'Schizophonic' - for one night only! I must admit to nearly being in tears during this, another goosebumps moment full of emotion, I adore this song and it's the highlight of the night for me.
The band look happy and comfortable with Ginger looking healthier than the Birthday Bash, sporting a white Massive Wagons t shirt to match his now fully stickered up Hagstrom guitar. He tells us that some people have said long serving roadie Dunc was treated unfairly at Manchester the previous night, due to some mic stand issues and Ginger asked people to throw some money his way. Cue a barrage of coins, which Dunc is happy to pick up bless him, much to the amusement of band and fans alike.
Ginger hushes the crowd and gets us all to click our fingers for the 'Do The Channel Bop' intro, we punch the sky and sing that euphoric lead up to the chorus, the epic middle section is sublime to me.
The band sound tight as fuck. Sure, it's probably not possible to mess up the raw, punk stabs of 'Mood Swings and Roundabouts' and the following 'In Like Flynn' a song that sounds as messy and awkward as it is on record. But to manage to make a 12 minute epic like 'Sky Babies' sound effortless, like they have played it every night for 3 months on tour, is something else. I didn't notice any mistakes whatsoever, a flawless performance, it sounds so good. What a climax to the main set.
The mini encore set sees Danny join the band for a 'Suckerpunch/Headfuck' one-two, followed by a very emotional 'Geordie In Wonderland' that sees the singer kiss the bassist on the head as the final chord rings out, and I'm sure the former Wildhearts bassist was not the only one wiping a tear from his eye at that moment. A killer 'I Wanna Go Where People Go' gets the energy levels flowing again and '29 X The Pain' round off an epic evening in glorious style.
There has been talk of more gigs doing 'Fishing For Luckies' in its entirety, which would be awesome. But there is a part of me that selfishly wants to keep this night as a one off just for those that were in that room, so we can have that 'I was there' moment. As that was one of the best Wildhearts shows I have seen in the past 20- odd years of following this band. The Wildhearts were on fire tonight.
PHOTO CREDIT: All photos © Trudi Knight/www.bandsonstage.co.uk