GINGER WILDHEART BAND, Ryan Hamilton And The Traitors, Massive Wagons @Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton 19/7/16


Ginger dusts some old songs off, adds some new ones and brings his mates along for a night of glorious fun

“Fi Fi Fo Fum, I smell the blood of an English rock n roll band” offers Baz Mills, the pretty big singer with Yorkshire’s finest, Massive Wagons. That title – that song – sums up the band pretty neatly, given that everything about it is, big, fun, somewhat primal and isn’t about to be denied by anyone or anything in its way. “Tokyo” thumps, “Nails” shakes and the appropriately soaring “Aeroplane” is hard rock par excellence. Dedicated to the headliners, you sense that live is MW’s natural habitat and probably where they truly excel. Here, given the chance to make some new fans they don’t disappoint and are very much the unstoppable force.

It’s about a million degrees in the Slade Rooms tonight. As the sun beats down and the venue steams up, it’s tempting to think that what should be the soundtrack to the summer is right here. Ryan Hamilton And The Traitors made an album full of what amounted to the perfect pop rock, full of harmonies, crunch and clever lyrics. Taking up from the genius of Silver Sun left off in the late 1990s it seems, they are – like Massive Wagons – on the bill at the behest of Ginger. As so often he’s made the right choice, because here, for 40 minutes RHatT are little short of brilliant. Perhaps heavier than on record, “Karaoke With No Crowd” and the superb “Records And Needles” with its Barroom rock n roll stylings win over any doubters, while “Four Letter Verb” is just a shimmering, shiny gem. There is a new song too and “Moved To LA” hints that the next record might be special. Ending with what is fast becoming their anthem, the anti bullying “Freak Flag” Hamilton says the UK has been good to the band – if it’s true then we’ve displayed some rare collective good taste.

MV’s love for Ginger Wildheart has been oft mentioned on these pages, but it’s a fact that very few artists have ever affected these ears in quite the way his music has over the last two and a half decades.

Even by the standards of unpredictability that he normally operates to, tonight’s set is a real unexpected treat. Reunited with Electric Boys and former Silver Ginger Five six stringer Conny Bloom – a man who is such a rock star that he keeps a scarf on for much of the set while all around him melt in the heat – for the first time in God knows how long, things open with a trio of tracks from that unbelievable SG5 album. And “Take It All, Why Dont’cha”, “Anyway But Maybe” and “Sonic Shake” are still as glorious as ever.

Arguably, though, it’s the middle part of the gig that makes this so interesting for the hardcore Ginger fan, because in addition to a smattering of tunes from the new “Year Of The Fanclub” collection – and he’s never written a better solo song than “Do You?” ever – there’s some stuff you’ve just never heard him play. “Mother City” is too good to be obscure, similarly the upbeat, “This Is Only A Problem” is a rare treat as well.

Even The Wildhearts songs he plays aren’t the usual. “Mazel Tov Cocktail” is proof of the depth of material this genius songwriter is capable of knocking out, and “Top Of The World” is happy and hedonistic.

“Ostracide” would be an odd choice of ending song, if it didn’t work so well and bringing out Vix from Fuzzbox for a gleeful four song encore that includes “Brain Sugar” – still catchy as the flu after all this time – and a few The Wildhearts staples (and let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be a Ginger gig without “29x The Pain, now would it?)

All you need to know about why Ginger has survived – and thrived – while others fell by the wayside, is encapsulated in that song. First, he loves music, the heroes he lists in the lyrics are still with him you’d guess, and second, that song is a b-side and nearly everybody here knows every word of it. He’s a man who engenders loyalty, and he deserves it too.

There’s nobody else like him – the man who’s band used to have a tshirt that said “Demand The Right To Be Unique” proved tonight that he is still just that after all these years.

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