The Wildhearts brought their no compromise rock and ever evolving story to Liverpool, Getintothis’ Lee Grimsditch joined the devoted onlookers.
If we are being diplomatic, you could say The Wildhearts have mileage.
The band’s reputed story begins with lead singer and founder, Ginger Wildheart, falling downstairs clutching a bottle of Jack after being sacked by from his previous band, The Quireboys.
Legend has it, had the bottle smashed, he had vowed to end his life with one of the broken shards. Fortunate for all, particularly the die-hard fans attending tonight, the bottle was sufficiently cushioned during Ginger’s tumbling descent. It was a sign, and The Wildhearts were born.
Tonight’s venue, Grand Central Hall, like The Wildhearts has its own eclectic history.
This turn of the 20th-century Methodist Church has had many lives: a cinema, a nightclub and an alternative shopping mall and now home to a luxury hotel, boutique bar, food hall and other event spaces.
The Grand Hall itself, where we find ourselves tonight, has the air of a once crumbling beauty given an age-appropriate facelift, with a touch of neon glamour.
As the majority audience of band shirt, dad rockers bumble their way into the impressive space, the first support act, The Last Great Dreamers, quickly tune-up and crash their way into the first song.
These rockers come from the same sleaze rock roots as The Wildhearts and are sartorially dressed in bandanas, top hats, flat caps and bowlers. Imagine The Libertines in their twilight years with a touch of daytime TV antique dealer.
Never reaching the heights of some others of their era, they do know how to play good-time rock and roll, with a punkier edge than their dandyish image suggests. They ably perform a high energy repertoire of time-served rock standards that become a little more interesting and nuanced as the set goes on.
The Lazys are up next. From Sydney Australia, they have the serious rocker image of a band more commonly found in the early 90s playing the type of grunge music that kicked bands like Last Great Dreamers and The Wildhearts out of rock’s mainstream and into a commercial wilderness.
So it’s a surprise to hear these young lads play the kind of hard, classic rock that the growing crowd are there for.
They have done their homework on bands like Free and AC/DC, and you could say they fall firmly in the camp of the New Wave of Classic Rock that has grown steadily in popularity with young bands over the past few years.
At one point, the guitarist struts out into the audience with a howling Les Paul over his head, to climb up onto the bar and play a cheeky call-and-response guitar solo with this bandmates. It was an effort well appreciated.
So with the backstage lights beaming into the crowd and the guy operating the dry ice machine on time-and-a-half, the legendary band of ragamuffins take to the stage. The cheer that greats them is impressive and the room is high on good vibes.
Ginger thanks the crowd and they’re straight into Dislocated, a track from the new album, Rennaisance Men, their first in ten years. With a heavier groove than some of their classic hard rock repertoire, it’s immediately appreciated by the die-hard fans.
The set tonight is made up from well-loved classics, punctuated with some of the stronger tracks from the new album. Suckerpunch and Caffeine Bomb – their UK chart hit from 1994 – elicit the biggest sing-alongs of the night.
For the fans, hearing these songs feels like an act of recognition from the band, and so with hands cupped around their plastic pints, they hug and slosh beer around each other’s shoulders.
There’s no doubt The Wildhearts have earned their place, deep in their loyal fans’ hearts. They are not a band you dip in and out of, but rather if you’re in – you’re in for life.
People that know me know I bang on about a group called the Wildhearts…tonight in Liverpool i saw the *Renaissance Men back together after many years. Glad i got to see them again & on top form!
*Name of their brilliant new album (1st in 11 years!)@CJWildheart @GingerWildheart pic.twitter.com/tLE2h4R1XQ
— Steve Willoughby (@willersIOM) July 18, 2019
The camaraderie of their hardcore fans suggests a band that they have grown up alongside – through all of their own and the band’s troubles – and the band has had its troubles. That’s a great achievement for any band.
It’s also the point where most of us can feel marginalised by a band so intuned to the loyalty of a fanbase. The audience sing every word back, cheer every intro, and chant along to primary colour choruses that can feel a tad repetitive by the end of the evening.
But a crowd this devoted don’t seem to notice or care. They’re too happy.
Who knows what’s next in the continuing history of The Wildhearts. What we do know is they won’t be doing it alone.
Images by Getintothis’ John Middleton