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The Wildhearts - Komedia, Bath 16.10.2019

The Wildhearts have been riding high this year, with their album “Renaissance Men” being incredibly well received by critics and fans alike, and their follow-up mini album “Diagnosis” hitting shops just a couple of weeks ago. This, combined with a lot of gigs, has meant that once again, they are a band that everyone is talking about.

But before we get to the main act, what about the support? Sadly due to a combination of babysitters and traffic, I missed Janus Stark – but the general feel was that they served up a short sharp shock of great entertainment to start the night off.

I was exceptionally glad to be there for Ferocious Dog – a band that I had not heard of prior to this gig, and not one that, on paper, would be high on my list of things to listen to. However, their fusion of Folk and Punk felt completely at home with the crowd, and indeed there were a few Ferocious Dog faithful down the front, really helping to lend the place a party atmosphere. By the end of the set they had the whole crowd moving (or at least nodding their heads approvingly), and I’m definitely going to be checking out their back catalogue ASAP.

As I was waiting for The Wildhearts to take the stage, I started to appreciate how much I was enjoying the venue as a whole. It was my first time at a gig in the Komedia, and I’d definitely go again. The venue is lovely, the sound was absolutely spot on, and the bar prices were not astronomical, which is always a winner as well.

But back to the reason that the vast majority of the crowd are here are tonight - The Wildhearts. There are very few bands out that are in the same league as this seven-legged Rock and Roll machine, which has been rolling for thirty years (with a few breaks here and there).

Full disclosure, I’m a huge Wildhearts fan. Ever since hearing them on a Kerrang! compilation in 1993, I’ve become one of their die-hard, dyed-in-the-wool, buy everything they’ve released fans. But I haven’t seen them live in over a decade, and in fact I’ve NEVER seen what is termed the “classic” line up (Ginger, CJ, Danny and Ritch), so this is a huge treat for me and – if I’m honest – not only did it not disappoint me, it was even better than I thought it would be!

With thirty years worth of songs to pick from, a Wildhearts set list is always a tough beast to get right. You want enough “classics” that everyone feels happy, but the problem with having such a dedicated fan base tends to be that everyone wants to hear their own favourite obscure B-Side and/or album tracks from twenty years ago.

Well this set list seems to have been perfectly designed to appeal to me. Showcasing five of 'Rennaisance Men’s' ten tracks is a brave choice, but with that album being as strong as it is, the songs slot into the set perfectly. In fact, opening with the one-two punch of “Diagnosis” and then “Let ‘Em Go” (which has a chorus that was just screaming to be sung along with) is one of the best openings to a gig I have ever seen. The rest of the set list comprised the few chart-bothering singles that the Wildhearts released in the nineties (“Sick Of Drugs”, “Caffeine Bomb” and their arguably most famous track “I Wanna Go Where The People Go”), a couple of utterly obscure B-Sides (“Mindslide” and “Action Panzer”) and, in a move that clearly keeps the band on it’s feet, a three-song encore that changes every night.

Ginger has long been an absolute showman, being able to hold a crowd’s interest and encourage all kinds of sing-a-long shenanigans, and tonight was no different. While the between-song banter was short and sweet, preferring to let the music do the talking, the band were clearly having an absolute blast, and so were the crowd.

This was easily one of my favourite gigs in a long long time. If you get the chance to catch The Wildhearts live this year or in the future, I cannot state enough how much I recommend it.

Review - Michael Braunton

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