Despite being in Wolverhampton the Civic Centre appears to be a decent venue. The main hall is a good size with a balcony over-head and the smaller hall where this gig took place, the Civic Bar, is just about the perfect size for a Ginger gig. This room also has a bar running the length of it but for some reason it wasn’t open so everyone had to traipse outside to the chronically under-staffed bar in the corridor instead.
The support band, Jackdaw-4, consisted of one-time Wildheart, Willie Dowling, and John Steele. Bearing in mind that I was sober the whole night I can’t remember much about their set which is never a good sign. The songs were alright and played well enough but they never really grabbed my attention. Having said that, I would still be interested in seeing the full line-up doing a proper electric set.
Soon afterwards it was time for the main event. Ginger ambled onstage sporting a cowboy hat over his dread-locks ( – turning American, Ginger?) with Hot Steve to accompany him on guitar, but sadly without Jon Poole on bass – maybe due to fallout from the recent Wildhearts split? They opened with ‘There’s Only One Hell’ which, as one my favourites, was a great start. After this Ginger played a couple of new songs, ‘The Man Who Cheated Death’ and ‘Just A Problem’ I think, which both sounded an improvement on some of his earlier solo stuff in that they were more catchy and not as….. erm – how can I put this nicely? – ordinary. The usual banter between Ginger and the crowd was being thrown back and forth between songs as usual and it’s a constant reminder of just what a great front-man Ginger is.
Next up was ‘One Love, One Life, One Girl’ followed by another new song about every man’s favourite subject, yes – female bisexuality, called ‘Paramour’ which also sounded great with customary witty lyrics. The Wildhearts classic ‘29 x the Pain’ made an unusually early appearance at this point and then Givee (?) took the stage to sing ‘Unlucky In Love’, a song that has to be heard live to be fully appreciated.
Much to my surprise Ginger then temporarily turned into a covers band by playing ‘Always On My Mind’ by Willie Nelson/Elvis/Pet Shop Boys/take your pick, ‘In My Life’ and ‘Nowhere Man’ by The Beatles, ‘Days’ by The Kinks, ‘Pulling Mussels (from a shell)’ by Squeeze, and also a tribute to Brian Wilson. For most of these songs the boys from Jackdaw-4 joined Ginger and Steve on stage to add their contributions.
Now I could be mistaken but I got the distinct impression that several of these songs weren’t planned because Steve either sat on his stool not playing a note because he didn’t know the song or trying to pick it up as he went along by watching the others. While it’s nice to see some improvisation and hear a few great old tracks, I did feel sorry for Steve at seemingly being put in the position of a ‘spare part’
Towards the end, which was 10.30pm by the way, the four of them returned to Wildhearts-country with ‘Geordie In Wonderland’ and ‘Nita Nitro’ before closing with the Silverginger-5 number, ‘Monkey Zoo’. Not really a belter to finish with but there you go.
After leaving the show my over-whelming impression was that Ginger had started to wean me off The Wildhearts by playing more songs by himself and other bands. After yet another band-split I can fully understand Ginger wanting to distance himself from that band and forge an identity as a solo artist once again. I wish him all the luck in the world but as a massive Wildhearts fan I’m going to find it very hard not to be slightly disappointed when he doesn’t play many of the old classics, as he hadn’t done tonight.
Either way, I’ll try to move on like Ginger is doing and hope that his new album is a cracker. More importantly, though, at the end of the night after one of his shows you always know that you’ve heard some quality music from a quality bloke which makes it all worthwhile, regardless of a missing classic or two.