Ginger Wildheart: a rock star at the crossroads

Still the impassioned, air-punching front man of the eternally combustible Wildhearts, Ginger's heart is firmly embedded in the vision of Hey! Hello!

You can trust Louder Our experienced team has worked for some of the biggest brands in music. From testing headphones to reviewing albums, our experts aim to create reviews you can trust. Find out more about how we review.

This unholy transition appears to be working, if the large numbers of Hey! Hello! T-shirts among the sizeable crowd inside Manchester’s cubic, soulless Academy is a true indication. Within the context of Hey!Hello!, Ginger appears comparatively restrained, allowing the spotlight to drift to new singer and former Love Zombie Hollis Mahady, whose party-time rock stance – whooping, spinning, dancing across the stage – certainly serves to warm the atmosphere, despite the early stage-time (7.30pm on a Manchester Friday is MORNING!). The band, including stand-in guitarist Chris Catalyst of Eureka Machines, provides a vibrant template for Ginger’s guitar histrionics. They have, indeed, survived the punk wars.

Hey! Hello!: All pics Mark Latham

It’s almost inconceivable to think that Glasgow’s Baby Chaos have been absent from this or any other scene for 17 years. But here they are, confidently striding the Academy stage, thumping majestically through their blistering new album, Skull Skulls Skulls, Show Me the Glory. The band’s defiant new anthem You Can’t Shut Us Up paves the way. Veterans now, their macho swagger may have softened a little, and thankfully so, but it is replaced by a lovely, aged irony. “We were youth” they chant dolefully, as the set slowly cracks back to former glories. Life in the old dog, as they say.

Baby Chaos: All pics Mark Latham

Which brings us neatly to Wildhearts. If there’s disharmony within the dynamic, it doesn’t show as they triumphantly storm the stage to face a roar worthy of a Welsh rugby crowd. The decision to play through the thumping anthems of 1995’s P.H.U.Q. — probably for the last time — adds an incendiary edge. I Wanna Go Where The People Go, their traditional opening bombast, kick-starts the momentum. Other than Blitzkrieg Bop, it’s difficult to imagine a more fully-charged set-starter, especially given the space allowed for the audience chants of “Hey Hey Hey”. This is Wildhearts heaven. Simplistic, euphoric and, it seems, a crazed nod back to a fading era. The equally obvious Just In Lust – with it’s courageously un-PC nod to a “cougar affair”, flows into Baby Strange, which segues sweetly into Nita Nitro.

“We will make mistakes,” admits Ginger at one point, “which is probably why we were never as big as U2… but I fucking hate perfect music.”

Don’t we all? Well, this crowd do and, even as Ginger halts the band mid-song to berate some lone, head-punching meathead in the mosh, the mood isn’t allowed to darken.

“I never did like the end of that song,” he laughs… and on and on they thump.

Of course there moments of balladeering. Be My Drug, in particular, seems to have attained an poignancy, given its shadings of nostalgia. The entire evening is summed up by the line “…with patience I gain a new lifestyle, to be rid of the rage.”

The set certainly feels like the end of something. Heartbreakingly, it’s the end of something wonderful. And whatever happens in the future, we may never quite tread this path again.

But Hello, Hey! Hello.

The Wildhearts: All pics Mark Latham

Mick Middles

Mick Middles is the author of nineteen books, most of which have concentrated on Manchester's music artists from punk to the present. He was the Manchester correspondent for Sounds magazine and his work has appeared in publications as diverse as the GuardianDaily Telegraph, the ExpressManchester Evening News, The FaceKerraangClassic RockRecord Collector and Rock'n'Reel. He lives in Warrington.