You could never accuse Ginger Wildheart of being lazy. This year has seen multiple releases and tours with a reformed Wildhearts as well as solo work. You can never tell what the guy is going to release next and that’s part of his charm. It could be Folk/Country, it could be Pop Rock, it could be Noise Terror. He handles each one in his own unique way. The tour has been playing some unusual venues. Churches have been rocked and tonight sees Newcastle’s Assembly Rooms host the dreadlocked musician’s hometown gig. It’s not a venue that most would expect for a show of this nature, it’s more suited to wedding parties and other such functions. It is, however, quite grand. Chandeliers hang from the ceiling and a few of us talk about the architecture and design of the room (we can be a cultured lot sometimes).
First to take the take is Bristol’s Nick Parker. I’ve been told by several friends to watch him and so I take my seat just a he’s starting his solo set. The half a dozen songs draw from his two most recent albums “Angry Pork And The Occasional Bird” and “Besta Venya” with Nick holding everyone’s attention easily with his singing and playing. They’re upbeat acoustic numbers, telling tales of life. Nick has a way of taking a situation so relatively simple and almost mundane and hooking us in. Case on hand is opener 'Departures' where he talks about the various people leaving on a plane from Heathrow, talking about what he sees and what stories they conjure in his mind, a perfect song to describe people watching that draws everyone in. He’s joined a few songs later on a stunning ‘Oceanographer’ by Ginger and Neil from the night’s headliners, with Ginger even managing to make Nick giggle mid song at one point. On another (‘Come On! Jump Over Your Shadow’), he gets the audience to call the person next to them on their mobile, put both on speakerphone and put them together. The oscillating feedback sound is haunting and mesmerising, adding something so simple but so affective to the song. Nick has picked up a few new fans on this tour and I’m happy to be counted as one.
Lauren Tate seems to be following in Ginger’s footsteps by being prolific and doing what the hell she wants to do. She’s already known to a few here as the front person of Grunge Punks Hands Off Gretel, who released and toured their album “I Want The World” so much this year. But tonight is all about her new solo album, the self produced “Songs For Sad Girls”. The fuzzed up Pop sounds are abandoned for this, Lauren adopts the persona of an emotionally wounded cabaret torch singer while her partner Sean accompanies her on guitar. Her set draws solely from “SFSG” and tonight's venue really suits her approach. The stripped back basic take works so well. Lauren’s voice soars around the ballroom and catches everyone’s attention while you can’t disguise the look of love in Sean’s eyes as they perform together. The songs are dark and could make for uncomfortable listening if it wasn’t for the mesmerising performance in front of us. Her voice carries such an emotional weight behind it. The tales of darkness and emotional, physical and mental abuse aren't easy listening in the slightest but you can't help but find yourself being drawn in. Her album may be from a woman’s perspective but it's relatable by people on so many different levels. Tonight Lauren has won herself a lot of new admirers of her talent.
Two artists in and Ginger has set himself a high standard with these supports and he seems absolutely happy with that. He’s not here for an easy ride and wants to expose his audience to things that might not necessarily sit within their usual listening spectrum. That’s perfect as far as I’m concerned as both Nick and Lauren, although completely different types of artists to each other and Ginger, really work well together as part of this tour. If you missed them then you really missed out.
Whoever hooked up Ginger with the guys from the Stone Mountain Sinners is a genius. From watching them all on-stage tonight they look and sound like a band thats toured and played together a lot longer than they have. Not just that, but The Sinners (as they have been billed for this tour) are perfect at creating the right sound for some of Ginger’s more recent solo work, adding a little more of a Blues and Americana flavour to material from “Ghost In The Tanglewood” and “The Pessimists Companion” that sound like traditional Country in the their original form. They’re accompanied by Givvi Flyn, a longtime Ginger collaborator, who adds some great backing and (later on) lead vocals to the night.
They open with ‘The Pendine Incident’ and ‘Toxins & Tea’, both from his G.A.S.S. project/“Year Of The Fanclub” album, Ginger taking great joy in getting the audience to shout out “wanker” in the latter song. ‘Six Years Gone’ by The Georgia Satellites has Ginger and Neil Ivison working so well on tandem guitars, it’s like they’ve played onstage together for years. The Hey! Hello! album gets a look in with ‘Swimwear’ with Givvi showing what she can do vocally, which she then blows completely out of the water later on with ‘Petite Mort’.
Ginger tells us the ‘The Pessimists Companion’ is about his dog Maggie, and how much people would be better if they had a dog in their lives, which is followed by ‘Why Aye (Oh you)’ from the same album. A duo of tracks from last years “Ghost In The Tanglewood” album follow the previously mentioned ‘Petite Mort’. ‘The Daylight Hotel’ and ‘Paying It Forward’ sound great with this band behind them, which is a great thing as Ginger and the Sinners have already got an album recorded together ready for release next year (there’s no sitting around for Ginger). ‘Honour’, which was originally written for Ginger’s one time employer Courtney Love again allows Givvi to duet perfectly with her boss for the tour.
Another thing that's highlighted with shows like this is Ginger's sense of humour. Tonight his quick witted between song chats cause more than a few giggles. At one point finds himself distracted a couple of times by what's going on around him, his attention darting around faster than a cat after a laser dot pointer. There's no over rehearsed "stage banter" as he comes off as genuinely warm and witty, quite happy to laugh at himself in the process.
The main set closes out with ‘Zap’ from Ginger’s latest solo album “Headzapoppin” before the band leave the stage to grab a few moments rest while guitars are retuned. After a few minuets they’re back with a brilliant ‘Caer Urfa’, an ode to Ginger’s hometown of South Shields which is just a short journey away from the venue. With a smile on their faces they launch into a brief version of ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’ by The Proclaimers before Neil takes lead vocals on a rousing cover of Status Quo’s ’Dirty Water’. The night wouldn’t be right if there wasn’t some nod to The Wildhearts so Ginger leads the band through the unofficial northern anthem ‘Geordie In Wonderland’ that has literally the entire room singing along to it. We’re left with a final song, a take on ‘Loveshit’ that is both faithful to the original WH version as well as to this line up.
And then, that’s it. The show is over. There seems to be no immediate rush to clear everyone out of the room so people casually say their goodbyes to each other and various band members. It’s chilled and relaxed, a perfect way to help bring the evening to a close. We all slowly drift our way homeward after many hugs from friends old and new. You can guarantee that everybody from the night is wishing they could do it all again. Let’s hope it’s not too long before a night like tonight can be repeated. Ginger and the Sinners have made believers out of us all.
Ginger Wildheart - https://www.facebook.com/officialginger/
Lauren Tate - https://www.facebook.com/OfficialLaurenTate/
Nick Parker - https://www.facebook.com/nickparkermusic/
Photos - G's Gig Shots
Review - Scott Hamilton