This is billed as the most intimate gig of the tour which is a great example of positive marketing. Playing anywhere in Mansfield – not least a venue with a capacity of just 275 – rates as a mistake in my book but I would say that because I come from Nottingham. In the interests of fairness I must say that the Town Mill isn’t too bad and in some ways it’s nice to see The Wildhearts up close and personal.
G.U. Medicine provided the first dose of support and it was potent medication indeed. Playing fast and thrashy juggernaut rock, they reminded me of Sacred Reich (particularly on ‘Girl From Chittagong’), Motorhead and Queens of the Stone Age with vocals coming from an unholy union of 70’s rawk and a mouthful of whisky. The band’s delivery was excellent and full of energy, particularly from lead singer – and Jack Black look-alike – Lee Storrar and bassist Ryan Senior. With instantly likeable tunes they had me tapping my foot all the way to the merchandise stall to purchase a CD the instant their set ended.
Sign, the next support act, swiftly followed and lightened the atmosphere with a more glammy sound. Yes, they did rock to a point but it was hard to get past the sight of a shirtless lead singer with the body of a 12 year-old schoolboy and (painted on) tears of blood. I’m sure every search performed on Google for this band will have the words ‘Skid Row’ and ‘Sebastian Bach wannabe’ contained within it, so I’d like to keep up that ratio. Looking like Skid Row, sounding like Skid Row and then covering a Skid Row song was all a bit too much for me. They have potential but in my opinion may benefit from developing a sound and image of their own. If G.U. Medicine are a juggernaut, then Sign are possibly a 1984 Corvette.
The Wildhearts appeared on stage at 9.40pm to much applause from the (sell-out?) crowd. The songs came thick and fast with minimal banter in between. After releasing a new self-titled album a matter of weeks ago it wouldn’t have been any surprise for this set to be littered with songs never heard live before. However, as at other shows on this tour, it was a case of the ‘same as usual’ played here plus just two new tunes thrown in.
Now, I’m a huge Wildhearts fan and love those old songs to bits but personally I think it would’ve made a nice change to hear more of the new stuff. Something else that seems to have been dropped from the Wildhearts repertoire lately is a completely unexpected track or b-side out of the blue which, for me, was always a highlight.
Ginger wasn’t afraid to voice his…..erm, reluctance?…..to be playing at a venue of this size but it didn’t seem to get him, or the rest of the band, down too much. The only obvious effect was that the low ceiling limited some of their more active antics and it also looked as though new bass player, Scott Sorry, was itching to cut loose on a bigger stage. CJ’s usual face of calm and tranquillity turned into a huge grin as he and Ginger appeared to derive great delight from throwing numerous plectrums into the audience, although not as big as Ginger’s grin when he was handed a toy gun to fire pellets towards the back of the room. He probably imagined he was hunting rednecks.
Rich Battersby on drums played a blinder, as always, and does add a lot of controlled power to the sound, just a shame we couldn’t see too much of him. Scott on bass looks like he’s always been in the band which is really saying something and a credit to him as he is filling several big pairs of boots.
The main disappointment of the night – but in no way a surprise – was the standard of Wildhearts’ merchandise. Come on, lads, it’s about time you found someone able to knock up a half-decent t-shirt or two. The best one available on this tour features a guy with a portable stereo for a head, but I have no wish whatsoever to be mistaken for a Radiohead fan.
Highlights were one of the new songs, ‘The Revolution Will Be Televised’, and the timeless ‘My Baby Is A Headf*ck’. The other new tune that was played, ‘Rooting For The Bad Guy’, was OK but the extended riffing halfway through takes away most of the momentum and lessens the effect of a potentially great live song.
The whole set was performed very tightly with minimum fuss or bother. They didn’t even go off stage before the encore, but instead turned their backs and told us to pretend that we couldn’t see them.
Banter with the audience was at a minimum tonight as the band were slick and tight, powering their way confidently through the set, the audience baying for more during the breaks.
Very good, very enjoyable, very Wildhearts.
Rough set-list (not necessarily in the right order); Vanilla Radio / Caffeine Bomb / TV Tan / Someone Who Won’t Let Me Go / Sick of Drugs / The Revolution Will Be Televised / Everlone / Stormy In The North / Nexus Icon / Suckerpunch / OCD / Nita Nitro / My Baby is a Headfu*k / Break/ Rooting For The Bad Guy / I Wanna Go Where the People Go