Home Gigs Gig Review : Ginger Plays Wildhearts An Acoustic Evening Celebrating The Music of The Wildhearts With Guests Baz Francis plus Carol Hodge & Ben Marsden Patriot – Home Of Rock – Crumlin, Wales

Gig Review : Ginger Plays Wildhearts An Acoustic Evening Celebrating The Music of The Wildhearts With Guests Baz Francis plus Carol Hodge & Ben Marsden Patriot – Home Of Rock – Crumlin, Wales

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Review by Gary Spiller for MPM

For a considerable chunk of the 90’s The Wildhearts formed a pivotal part of my personal playlist. A part by equal, alongside the tenacious energy of Therapy? and Terrovision Ginger and his cohorts were there right by my side from the transition from teenage overspill to full-blooded adulthood.

Here this evening at a sold-out Patriot, nestled in the shadows of the former Navigation Colliery, the man himself is here to take us through an eclectic exploration of his extensive career.

For company Ginger has enlisted the wide and varied talents of three musicians who have quite the repertoire between them. First up we’re treated to the affable charm of former Mansion Harlots and Magic Eight Ball frontman Baz Francis. By the time this fetchingly attired chap strides on to the stage, in his white dungarees and striped shirt, The Patriot is beginning to burst at the seams.

With just a heavily stickered acoustic guitar for company Baz sets about introducing himself to the crowd. He grabs attention with the engaging ‘Pulling The Other One’, lifted off his 2017 solo album ‘Face That Launched A Thousand Shipwrecks’, with his wide-ranging vocals rolling effortlessly into Magic Eight Ball’s ‘Come Get Your Kicks.’ It’s numbers from this outfit that are the main focus of Baz’s set with the likes of the motoring ‘It’s Not For Me To Say’ and ‘Once Again’ having the spotlight turned upon them.

There’s a keen sense of engagement with a cheeky edge; holding a Welsh scarf Baz enquires “I wonder if I can cynically get a bit more applause? That [last track] was dedicated to Wales.” There’s a touch of Dogs D’Amour’s Tyla about Baz’s narrative and his warm character is received warmly. Everyone likes a cheeky chap, right?

‘Poppi Belle’ possesses an inclination towards the acoustic punky-fringed realms that the likes of Louise Distras occupy with such numbers as ‘Aileen.’

Every ounce of power is expended in ‘Something Better Has Come Along’ as Baz channels an inner ‘Pinball Wizard’ before upping the ante with the slinky rock n’ roll double bass feel of the intro of ‘Keep Me Out The Sunlight.’ The closing track’s punchy quirks are redolent of that which The Davies brothers, Dave and Ray, would be rightfully delighted with. Baz’s half-hour opening slot has proven a tasty starter for the Wildhearted mayhem to come.

Before the main course we have the collaboration of two genial musical aptitudes in the form of keyboardist Carol Hodge and guitarist Ben Marsden. Much like Baz, before them, this evening forms my initial introduction to their combined skills. Both have rap sheets, in musical terms, as long as their arms. Carol, whilst being an established singer / songwriter in her own right with four albums to her credit, has collaborated with the likes of Steve Ignorant (Crass), Jon Poole (Dr. Hook), Ryan Hamilton and none other than Ginger. Ben, to his credit, is an integral part of the Warner E. Hodges Band along with The Main Grains and The Spangles.

In their allotted 40 minutes the duo dip, in equal measures, into Carol’s solo catalogue and that of both The Main Grains and The Spangles; it’s a selection that goes down a treat from the very off. The easy coasting vibe of ‘The Moan Of A Thousand Years’ sparkles brightly as it draws upon REM and Bruce Hornsby. There’s a spark between the pair and one would never guess that this in fact their first time as “Carol and Ben” as we’re informed by the former at the end of the lively, effervescent ‘The Only One.’

Carol’s pure as mountain snow melt vocals in ‘Clean The Slate’ take a nudge towards Julianne Regan contrasting starkly, and delightfully, with Ben’s ‘Seven Nation Army’ styled riffing. There’s a shared infectious banter and a collective of talent on show this evening. The pair alternate between their respective careers with ease meandering between the Eddie Cochran infused ‘Get Over Yourself’ and the folksy whims of ‘Stopped Believing In You’ with the merest blink of an eye.

Influences, proudly worn on sleeves, are undeniable but ultimately there’s a clear direction. ‘This’ – a jewel in the night sky – receives a Bowie crossed with Nirvana workout with Carol’s powerful vocals verging in the direction of Kate Bush and Siouxsie Sioux, a path few dare tread and even fewer draw success from like Carol does this evening.

Following the gentle, spectral ‘Fallibility’ Carol playfully requests for the gathered to ‘meow.’ The Patriot responds and I can go to sleep one very content individual; good money would have been put against this very thing occurring, but it has to dramatic effect! The pop-punk of The Spangles’ ‘I Don’t Wanna Go’ is followed up by a ‘meow’ equalling cover in terms of unlikeliness. Not one of us would have guessed that this well received set would end with the exuberant curtain call of Chas n’ Dave’s ‘Ain’t No Pleasing You.’ It’s been one of those sorts of nights thus far and the ‘chaos’ promises to continue.

Requiring no introduction, a legend of over three decades of rock n’ roll mayhem, Ginger Wildheart cuts a confident figure as he takes his guitar in hand. Looking out into the venue he orders “Turn this shit off!” before furthering “I hope that wasn’t a local band and they’re here tonight!” He needn’t have worried as if this had proven to be the case, I reckon his persiflage would be notched up as a ‘medal of honour’ to be worn with pride.

“Monday comes crashing in again” exudes Ginger stomping his wild-cat coloured boots to the buzzsawing ‘Weekend.’ The crowd, rammed into every corner of The Patriot, sing raucously eliciting a “Fucking hell!” from Ginger who concludes, in complete understatement, “This is going rather well!” Smiling broadly at the cacophonous racket that results to his ‘requisition’ that one and all sing anything, literally anything but the words themselves Ginger is at one with the crowd in an instance.

“This one’s got four solos, but I’ve only got one guitar!” Ginger observes as he hands out kazoos in readiness for the anarchic pugilistic despatch of ‘My Baby is a Headfuck.’ The time-honoured ‘Day Tripper’ segment is slipped in before the Geordie tones exclaim “C’mon headfuck me!” prompting the kazoos to be unleashed. It’s the hard rock version of Who’s Line Is It Anyway, pure mayhem and we’re just two tracks in!

The chemical haze of ‘Just In Lust’ readily engages before ‘Do The Channel Bop’ tramples over the freshly planted front garden in riotous manner. It’s pretty damn clear Ginger isn’t here to churn out the hits and the world is a better place for this as this most affable of individuals takes us by the hand and steers us through the world according to Ginger. It’s wild, wacky, and wondrous; welcome to Planet Wildheart.

Eyes closed ‘Urge’ – off 97’s ‘Endless, Nameless’ album – is launched stratospherically before the stabbing riffs of ‘Eager To Leave ‘er’ takes a nod over to The Stranglers. “Now you’re on your back, Like a golden retriever” chuckles Ginger as the ‘roaches dance in the hall.

From the joys of having a dog in your life to taking on the challenge of signing testicles (Gin on one and Ger on the other if you’re wondering!) Ginger banters amiably with the crowd. He’s razor sharp, in great form and on top his game. The bad guy is rooted for prior to the ‘Mazel Tov Cocktail’ is lobbed into the mix. Grey skies fade, the telephone rings and we’re handed a one-way ticket to a Geordie Wonderland.

The heads down no-nonsense approach of ‘Diagnosis’ sees the likes of Quo crash headlong into the Pistols in trademark Wildhearts fashion and goes down an absolute storm. Read ‘em and weep folks! As the final notes of the careering storm of ‘You Do You’ go down fighting Ginger invites Carol, Baz, and Ben to join him on stage for what proves to be a frenetic six-track finale. The swelling of the ranks proves a genius move with the expanded sound lifting the Patriot’s rafters. ‘Sick Of Drugs’ has the crowd bouncing along with its rag-tag fizzing “How can you stay, When you’re sixty million miles away?”

The afterglow of ‘Top Of The World’ reflects the glory, after all you don’t get no view like you do when you’re atop. The staccato rapid-fire despatch of ‘Nita Nitro’ takes us back to the very heart of the 90s with its military rhythm; one I’ve not heard in a might long time but at once its familiarity wraps itself about.

The rebel-rousing ‘Sucker Punch’ is as detonative as the day it pounced upon an unsuspecting public back in ’93 whilst the immediately distinctive strains of ‘I Wanna Go Where The People Go’ uplifts with seismic forces, let it shine just let it shine.

Referencing his heroes – “Give me old, give me new” – Ginger belts out the set-closing ‘29 x The Pain’ with an infectious demeanour, a reflective swansong for an evening exploring a career with no quarter given or requested. It’s great to see Ginger doing what he does best and doing it with a smile as wide as the Severn estuary; long may this celebration continue.

Photography by Kelly Spiller for MPM

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