Gig review– P.h.u.q Tour.
Let's wind the clock back 20 years and consider the music you were listening to. Look now at the bands that you're still listening to. Are there many? If you’re a Wildhearts fan, the answer is likely to be ‘yes’! Welcome to one of the most dedicated fan-bases in music.
Back in the 1990s becoming a Wildhearts fan probably meant you were hooked for life. Well known for sticking by their band through everything the years could throw at them, Wildhearts fans will still have the band high on their playlist today. Seeing them live is not to be missed, and seeing them return to play their 1995 album, P.h.u.q., in its entirety for the album’s 20th anniversary, is something truly special… And something this Wildhearts fan could not resist. So off I set to Wolverhampton’s Wulfrun Hall on 23rd September 2015.
We began the evening with Hey Hello, a (growing) side project of The Wildhearts front man, Ginger. For this performance Ginger took a back seat on guitar and backing vocals, leaving new singer Hollis Mahady to steal the show with a triumphant rendition of the self-titled insanely catchy rock-pop album, whetting our appetites for album number two, due for release soon.
The guest support slot was Baby Chaos, re-appearing after a 17 year hiatus with a new album, and a renewed spirit. Mixing current album tracks with earlier favourites, the band were well received, delivering a tight, loud and riff-laden performance.
All very good, but this evening was about The Wildhearts. As they took the stage, my memory drifted back 20 years – this is my own 20th anniversary of seeing the band live.
Playing through a whole album live hasn't always been popular; bands often suffer from too many filler tracks, losing their audiences. Not so here. P.h.u.q. is a fan favourite which produced Top of the Pops appearances and hit singles. The main question was why wasn’t it far bigger? Look into a well-documented band history and you’ll find your answer.
P.h.u.q. begins with the huge 'I Wanna Go Where The People Go', then straight into ‘V-Day’ and ‘Just in Lust’, the band breeze through this somewhat varied album, making it sound as fresh as in 1995. Arriving at the final track, 'Getting It', we're all very pleased to still be here after 20 years. With more energy and enjoyment on stage than in bands less than half their age, this is about giving their loyal fans a stunning show in a city they love to visit.
After a quick break, we were given a blistering, celebratory volley of classics, including 'Caffeine Bomb', 'Everlone' and ‘Vanilla Radio’... These tracks pushed us up a gear, reminding us why this band should be huge; so much more successful than the charts seem to show. Then the night ended not altogether surprisingly, with '29 X the Pain'; another fan favourite. If you're unfamiliar with the material, you could do worse than start with tonight.
The memories here are of a band still performing at the top of their game. Much has been written about the turbulent career of The Wildhearts - it’s often regarded as amazing they are here at all, a sentiment echoed by Ginger in dedicating the night to those who didn't make it through the last 20 years. You could argue that we've seen it all before: there's no new album coming – the last being Chutzpah!, in 2009 – and the band have their own careers, so why bother? This is for the fans, celebrating the music and the albums that formed their lives.
Who knows what the future may hold with The Wildhearts... at least until the next 20th anniversary album comes along in 2 years’ time.
Photos and words ©Stephen Curry
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