REVIEW: The Wildhearts, Live in London

The Wildhearts closed out their recent UK tour with a sold-out show in Camden, supported by Hey! Hello! and Von Hertzen Brothers. Here’s five things we learned when we weren’t shunning offers of cheap cologne from the venue’s ‘bathroom attendant’…

Hey! Hello! are far too good to be just a side-project

It’s a well-established fact that Ginger Wildheart is the hardest working man in showbusiness. In perpetual motion, he moves from one project to the next without pausing for breath, but precious few of us possess the same speed of thought and movement. Which is a long-winded way of saying that we hope Hey! Hello! get a proper shot at establishing themselves in the hearts and minds of the rock community, because they’re a wonderfully engaging, hugely likable and genuinely intoxicating collective. Victora Liedtke is an absolute star - sassy, playful and effortlessly cool– Japanese rhythm section Toshi (bass) and Ai (drums) swing and roll with one mind, and a dapper-looking Ginger holds the show together beautifully without ever seeking to hog the limelight. Playing to a packed room despite an early stage time, the quintet whizz through 30 minutes of sparky, diamond-sharp pop-rock, with Black Valentine fizzing like space dust and Swimwear proving a strong contender for song of the night. More please.

Von Hertzen Brothers will be headlining venues bigger than this soon enough

If Queens of the Stone Age or Soundgarden were headlining tonight’s show, the Von Hertzen Brothers would be the perfect support band, their beautifully crafted meld of classic rock, prog, psychedelia and Beatles-esque melodies filling every corner of the room with light and colour. In a venue full of gleefully pissed-up people on a mission to usher in the Easter weekend early, their tasteful, graceful songs occasionally sail above the heads of the audience, but there’s warm, respectful applause for the likes of Flowers And Rust and Coming Home, and the absurdly charismatic Mikko von Hertzen is a magnetic presence at centre-stage. The band’s ascent has been a gentle slow-burn outside their native Finland, but in 2014 they sound ready to fly.

Wildhearts shows feel like family gatherings

You don’t need to see your friends or family every day in order to maintain a connection: the best relationships are unencumbered by time spent apart, and reunions are seamless and natural. Given The Wildhearts’ rather turbulent history, there’s a certain irony in the fact that their shows now feel so comfortable and familial, but it certainly makes for a grand night out. Ginger’s band could have comfortably packed out a venue twice as big as the 1,100 capacity Ballroom, but those who snapped up tickets on their day of release are diehard loyalists, and consequently there’s a genuine sense of community and camaraderie in the room this evening. Under the circumstances, the return, after a five year absence, of bassist Scott Sorry to the band seems entirely appropriate and fitting.

Earth Vs The Wildhearts is the single greatest British rock album of the past 25 years…

In a week when the mainstream UK media has been engaged in a nostalgic circle-jerk over the 20th anniversary of BritPop, tonight is a neat reminder that the ‘90s wasn’t all about swaggering mad-fer-it Mancs, faux-Cockney laddishness and achingly middle class anthems of hedonistic rebellion. Tonight’s 20-something song set might not lean heavily on The Wildhearts’ 1993 debut – in fact there’s plenty of space for B-sides and lesser-spotted anthems, from Mazel Tov Cocktail to the Scott Sorry-led The Only One - but it’s impossible to hear Greetings From Shitsville, TV Tan, Suckerpunch and …Headfuck played at optimum volume in a room full of air-punching, hoarse-throated devotees without thinking about the magnitude of that recording. That the band don’t need to milk it this evening is an impressive statement of confidence and chutzpah.

…but is it time we started giving Endless, Nameless a fresh hearing?

We’ve already touched upon both Ginger’s capacity for reinvention and his prolific creative output: such is the faith he inspires that albums as disparate as Hey! Hello!’s debut and Mutation’s Error 500 can co-exist happily in his recent catalogue. And an airing of Junkenstein from The Wildheart’s third official studio set serves notice that jarring distortion and subversive melodies need not be mutually exclusive either. Gleefully abrasive, Endless, Nameless rather disturbed and bemused The Wildhearts’ fan base when it emerged in 1997, but the diversity of Ginger’s solo output in the past decade means that it no longer sounds as alien and antagonistic as it once did. Maybe it’s time for the black sheep of the Wildhearts family to be investigated anew?

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.