It’s the 20th anniversary of Earth vs The Wildhearts, so Ginger & Co have taken the album out on the road for their first tour in years, and this was a triumphant celebratory evening.
The show started off in incendiary fashion with Baby Godzilla playing their biggest show so far and loving every minute. Arriving partway through their set, it took me a few songs to work out there were four people in the band, so rarely were they all on stage at the same time, preferring to thrash around in the audience, with even the drummer managing to venture out during showpiece song (the only one with comprehensible words at least) Powerboat Disaster.
Eureka Machines were next up, one of those Ginger-related bands to benefit from a PledgeMusic campaign in the last year and hugely popular amongst Wildhearts fans. I’ve probably only seen a handful of support bands get a better reception from the crowd, with frontman Chris Catalyst admitting that it felt like a headline slot for them, with fans singing along to tracks like Pop Star and Champion The Underdog with almost as much gusto as they would for songs later in the evening.
I’m just a little too young to have been a fan from the Earth Vs days (my first WH gig was three years later), but it’s an album that played a huge role in my formative music years, so it was incredibly exciting to hear it played in full. Unlike some of these kind of tours, they did faithfully run through it, in order, rather than using it was a hook to get the punters in, before playing a pretty normal gig. But starting with the explosive riffs of Greetings From Shitsville, The Wildhearts blasted their way through all the favourites from that incredible album.
A few fans were a bit bemused by the lack of Caffeine Bomb in the middle, but the intention was to play the original release rather than the re-released version with that hit single added in, which only came out a year later. But the most exciting parts of the set for me were the tracks I haven’t heard live before, like Loveshit, Shame On Me and News Of The World, while old live favourites like My Baby Is A Headfuck and Suckerpunch had the crowd turned into a frenzy of flailing limbs and flying sweat. It may have been predictable, but it was no less satisfying for it.
Less predictable was the second half of the show, which saw the band turning responsibility for the setlist over to the fans. It was yet another in a long line of Ginger’s impressive efforts to engage with the fanbase, which is at least partly the reason they managed to pretty much fill Academy 1 (a large venue than I’ve ever seen them play before), and it worked a treat. Fans were given two songs (not selected by the band) to choose from, with the song to get the loudest cheers the one that they’d play, and this threw up some interesting selections.
The first was a straight choice between two huge hits, Caffeine Bomb and Sick Of Drugs, and the predictable choice won, with fans opting to hear the song quite a few had expected to have already. After that, the fans were able to choose some less frequently played tracks and I was thrilled to get to hear Schizophonic and b-sides Beautiful Thing You and Dangerlust, which Ginger particularly enjoyed playing for its more ‘trippy’ sections.
Turning American and Geordie In Wonderland were predictable (but excellent) choices, but the flipside of democracy was shown when the wonderful Hate The World Day got shouted down in favour of The Duck Song, Ritch Battersby’s 20 seconds of fame. But the grand finale summed up the evening and the band perfectly. The crowd got the choice between biggest hit I Wanna Go Where The People Go and popular b-side 29 X The Pain, and it was the latter – Ginger’s nostalgic ode to being a music fan – that won the day.
It was partly appropriate for the line about missing Kurt Cobain (on the 19th anniversary of his death) but mostly because it was the fans choosing the song that meant the most to them, played by the band that mean as much to them as those that Ginger wrote about in that song 19 years ago. And it remains a two-way thing, with the band clearly enjoying themselves on-stage as much as the fans were off it. And that’s how it should be, that’s the whole point of music. That’s why this was an amazing show and why Wildhearts fans will always keep going back for more.