Leeds Rio’s. Support: Sign, G.U. Medicine
Without too much in the way of exposition I will just say that this was the best gig I have been to in a long time. That fact is made more impressive by the context in which it is written: I have been going to quite a few gigs of late (some of which are still in the writing process, like Blood Brothers, Propagandhi and the mighty Josh T. Pearson).
Not only was this a hell of a gig, but it was my most eagerly awaited in a long, long time. It was certainly on an eager anticipation par with Fugazi in 2002 and Tool in 2001, and largely due to their being one of my favourite bands growing up. They originally split in late 1997, and I kind of ignored their reformation earlier this decade because it all seemed a bit weird to me; I wasn’t a fan of what seemed to be empty nostalgia or whatever it was.
Anyway, Probot pulled me back into the rock mix, age has led to something of a late nineties revival in my listening (not to mention the stagnation of guitar music recently, but that’s for another day), and South Shields’s finest have returned once more, with a new album but, more importantly, a tour. Given my recent reminiscy-month for Kerbdog, I got to thinking that, not only were the Wildhearts the most under-rated British rock band of the decade, but quite probably also the best. Go on: who was better?
I had meant to go listening crazy for the band as the gig loomed. However, my temporal awareness is about on par with a punch-drunk Siamese fighting fish, so the gig rocked up all too soon for me to prepare. Like the last twelve years hadn’t been preparation enough. That said I was a tad concerned that, two days earlier, they had released a new album. The dreaded new album. How many old favourites were they going to play?
Before all that, though, there were support bands. Being super-cool and jaded, we decided nuts to the openers, and we might as well roll up for the ‘extra special guests’, whomsoever they might happen to be. And you never know when a band is going to come on nowadays.
This was the first time I attended a gig at the new Leeds Rio’s. the Bradford original had hosted a ton of my favourite gigs (from Neurosis to Iron Monkey), so there was a storied history to live up to. I have to admit, the new venue is a ton better than the Braddy one. Not only is it actually in my city, but the dance floor is longer than it is wide (sure, that’s taken for granted by many gig-goers, but they obviously haven’t been to Bradford Rio’s. It was an insane semi circle facing the stage, surrounded by pillars. Not a place to get drunk in). It also used to be a camp night club, so it’s in weirdly good condition for what is now a rock venue. Time will see to that.
Much like the Propagandhi gig (to be posted at some point before the world explodes), this was an event at which there were numerous people from one’s past, the kind of people you had no idea still lived near you. I love the fact that I have aged better than everybody I knew back in the day.
The first band we saw turned out to be Sign, from Iceland. When the androgynous vocalist (a refreshing sight in this age of rocks re-laddening) said their name, I thought he was just boasting about being signed, in much the same way that James Hetfield did in that famous Metallica footage from 1983. You know, when he holds their first twelve inch above his head and declares its release on Megaforce Records. Anyway, he wasn’t saying they were signed, but Sign.
Musically I was quite intrigued as to how they’d turn out, seeing as most of the band looked like roadies. It was like being a time warp, and rather a pleasant one. Sure enough, the music began in a very chugging, old school manner. The riffs sounded almost pre Guns N’ Roses in that the music lacked that punky bite. That was until the vocals kicked in; it was almost the moment when most in attendance decided they either loved or hated the band.
See, the vocals were high pitched and unapologetic. They were powerful without distorting in that cool Chris Cornell/JohnGarcia way. No, they were trad as fuck, recalling directly the pretty faced young singer of Skid Row, Sebastian Bach. That first song, with me still reeling from the vocal revelation was excellent. The set went on, I got used to their sound, but it was engaging throughout. If all goes well, I envisage this band filling venues far bigger than Rio’s in the next few years; certainly if Bam Margera ever catches wind of them. The set concluded with ‘a song we should all know’. And sure enough, I recognised it instantly. It seems my earlier comparison to Skid Row was not without merit, as they reached crescendo with that bands anthem ‘Youth Gone Wild’. I question the wisdom of covering such a well known song, but it certainly cooks live.
I have no idea what G.U. Medicine sounded like, as I missed them. Then again, they apparently hail from Barnsley, so I wonder whether ‘missed’ is actually an appropriate term.
And so we reach the main event. I had actually wanted to see the band in 1995 (at the now long defunct Town and Country Club as I recall), but was actually too scared to do so. I forget where I got this information, but their gigs were alleged to be very violent and I was a skinny fourteen year old with no gig experience. Suffice it to say the impending set was a long time coming.
And they kicked of with a dreaded New Song! Well, it wasn’t that new but, for the purposes of this event, anything released after their original split in the nineties counts as something I don’t know, ergo bad news. And it was ‘Vanilla Radio’. I knew this one through downloading their live album The Wildhearts Strike Back, and it’s a good song so I’ll have to buy The Wildhearts Must Be Destroyed at some point in the near future. I figure that, for the next time I see them, the promotion of songs-I-don’t-know to songs-I-know would be a wise step.
Thankfully the second song was old favourite ‘Caffeine Bomb’, which is very old (I have liked it since 1994) and very favoured indeed. It is one of the fastest songs they did (although I reckon the fastest would have to be ‘Moodswings and Roundabouts’, which didn’t get an airing), and perfect to get everyone into the gig as it mixes nostalgia with insane amounts of energy. It also represented the first of numerous trips into the pit. These trips are characterised by a complete lack of recollection as the moment is all that counts here. I remember very little about my very favourite sets historically.
I didn’t leave the pit when ‘caffeine Bomb’ finished because it was time for another old gem ‘T.V. Tan’. I reckon it’s pertinent to point out now that I was mainly hankering for songs from my fave two Wildies albums P.H.U.Q. (1995) and Fishing for Luckies (1996). So the count thus far: no songs played, because ‘T.V. Tan’ is off their accepted best album (but that’s incorrect) Earth vs. the Wildhearts.
‘Someone Who Won’t Let Me Go’ and ‘The Revolution Will Be Televised’ were next up and they kinda passed me by, though I enjoyed them for what they were. The latter is off the new album and impressed. I sound like a right old fart at this stage, but I was really happy when ‘Suckerpunch’ came on; I really was expecting to be familiar with most of the set but what can you do. ‘Suckerpunch’ is another high-octane tune, with a great and infectious rhythm to the verses. I don’t know what Ginger’s singing during these, so I bounced around the pit making up noises to fit the music. Fun was had indeed. The count: Still none.
‘Nexus Icon’ was another comeback-era song, and one that I can see myself liking a lot more in due course. Big deal anyway, because the next song was ‘Sick of Drugs’! This was on the redux Fishing for Luckies album (yeah, long story). ‘Sick of Drugs’ is an awesome blast of heavy pop-punk, and it was actually a bigger hit than I remember, reaching number fourteen in our singles charts. Awesome.
Next was song-I-know-but-not-that-well ‘Everlone’ and new stuff ‘Top of the World’ (a top thirty hit – I suck) and b-side ‘O.C.D.’. Hey, at least I’ll know all this stuff next time round. If there is a next time… Another post-comeback single ‘Stormy in the North, Karma in the South’ (top twenty!) came and went before, thankfully, ‘My Baby Is a Headfuck’ provided sanctuary. So, with the end of set proper, the wish list song count stands at a measly one. Hmph.
Obligatory encore hate. There is a glorious fake sing-along at the end of P.H.U.Q. known as ‘Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me’. It’s really catchy stuff, and I often catch myself singing it around the house. I think it’s tradition to do so before a Wildhearts encore, but I couldn’t bring myself to; this was partly because I hate encores and partly because the rest of the audience couldn’t get it together enough to reach any semblance of unison. Only the second song off the new album, ‘Rooting for the Bad Guy’ was first encore song, and it’s a bloody epic. It felt like one of those great, weirdly proggy, Fishing for Luckies tunes and is nine minutes long. I can’t wait to get that on the Death Deck.
And finally, the very last song of the night was their best, their flagship single, and easily one of the ten best British singles of the nineties: ‘I Wanna Go Where the People Go’. I can’t honestly say I was surprised because I expected it to either start or end the set. Anyway, it was magnificent. All I really recall about it is rocking out massively, completely knackering myself out in the pit but swearing to stick with it on account of it was the end of the set, and the distinct lack of backing vocals. That and it was unbelievably enjoyable. And, all told, the wish list song count was two; one from each album. Better than nothing, I suppose.
The band themselves were on fine form. Ginger was obviously the centre of attention, and was a great frontman. While he dissed sobriety (I don’t agree with him, but he is pretty drugular so I can’t stay mad), he also brought the comedy, largely directed at W.A.S.P., who played Rio’s shortly before tonight. The new bassist Scott Sorry was a source of confusion for me, as he kinda looked like original bass player Danny McCormack and kinda didn’t. Trivia fans: he was in Amen, which was a pretty under-rated punk rock band that got accused of being nu-metal.
I was hoping to see them a few times on this tour, as they played Sheffield and Manchester on the nights after this, but the ticket prices proved a substantial stumbling block. It gives me time to swot up on the tunes I didn’t know for the next tour; I’ll start with buying the new album. Ginger was rather gutted when I raised my hand as one of the punters who hadn’t already bought it, but what can I say? I got the Melt-Banana album that week instead.
I stole the setlist from here. I never remember the things myself.