Take a second to think of the things that you love, not like or admire but truly love, about rock and roll music. Whatever that thing may be, whether it’s the sound of overdriven guitars, massive anthemic choruses, the swagger of its finest protagonists, the attitude, the lifestyle, no matter what that one thing that drew you to rock and roll is you can guarantee that Ginger Wildheart has it oozing from his pores. So the fact that this most unique and, let’s not beat around the bush here, under-appreciated of men is turning 50 is an event worth celebrating.
This does feel less like a gig and more like a huge house party, something Ginger himself acknowledges when he first addresses the crowd by asking telling them to enjoy the party “with their faces and not their phones.” Before adding “If you were at a party and you were filming the whole thing then you might not be invited back to the next party, so if you see someone filming you can tap them on the shoulder and ask them to put it down… or if you’re a cunt like me you can grab the phone out of their hand and throw it on the stage.” It’s a typically old school approach to the art of live performance that makes those of us in the know revere the man so much. But if we’re honest, the main reason we are here tonight is to gorge ourselves on one of the finest back catalogues in rock.
It’s just gone 8 in the evening when Ginger and the first of many of a revolving ensemble of musicians stride on stage and power straight into the first of an endless supply of his own brand of heavy rock, coated in the most sublime of melodies. He’s helped by members of The Wildhearts and the kinetic, bouncing presence of Hey! Hello!’s Kelii Compulsive adding backing vocals for the opening numbers before it becomes a free for all and everyone from former Rachel Stamp drummer Robin Guy to Republica’s Saffron are up there blasting out some deep cuts from the great man’s repertoire. We get the furious glam stomp along of Girls Are Better Than Boys from Silver Ginger 5, a cover of White Lies by Jason And The Scorchers, a song that Ginger introduces as “My favourite song by anyone ever made.”, with Jason Ringenberg from the band putting in a show-stealing, guitar-slinging turn, Ginger taking to the drum kit for the first time ever whilst what seems like twenty people roar along to Rats, songs from Hey! Hello!, solo material, long lost B-sides, never before played gems – the lot. It’s an eclectic mix of people, styles and sounds that, despite the fast and loose nature of the show, never loses momentum.
By the end of this mammoth three hour set Ginger has brought out seemingly everyone he’s ever met, trying to namecheck them all would be a thankless task. But it doesn’t matter, the songs are the stars here. Whoever comes on is given a bulletproof piece of musical gold, and when the crowd hear the likes of My Baby Is A Headfuck, Sick Of Drugs, 29x The Pain, Suckerpunch or any of the other Wildhearts classic they lose their minds and dignity in a mass bawl along (despite the fact that Ginger, typically contrary, introduces every single one of them by telling the crowd how much he hates singing it). The finale of I Wanna Go Where The People Go backed by the entire backstage area and a couple of glitter cannons is a fitting end to an unforgettable night. All thanks to one man.
Before he leaves Ginger reflects on turning the big 5-0, reminding us that in the early ‘90s he topped a list of musicians ‘most likely to die’ ahead of Ozzy, Keith Richards and Lemmy… all of whom are still here. “So I guess I’ll continue to be the soundtrack to your lives until you croak… I say until you croak, because I’m going to fucking live forever!” He’s right, because rock and roll can never die and Ginger is the living breathing epitome of it. Happy birthday, sir!