As jubilee bunting fluttered in the gales and litter became mashed up underfoot on the rainy streets of Manchester, it could only mean one thing; we were into summer festival warm-up season and what better way to get started than by popping down to the Student Union to check out erstwhile Wildheart and certified Geordie legend, Ginger.
Seemingly forever in a cycle of touring and recording, I was as excited as ever to see the flame-haired one tear up the stage, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years from Ginger and Wildhearts gigs, it’s that you should get down early to catch some hidden gem support acts, and this night was no different.
Kicking off proceedings were Baby Godzilla, taking the show quite literally to the crowd in a ferocious display of thrashy punky hardcore. These guys are obviously unhinged in a very, very good way and they’re surely going to be tearing up bigger venues in the not too distant future. Get them out with someone like Feed The Rhino and crazy times cannot fail to be far behind. Following the ‘zilla were South Wales mob The Guns who did a great job of encouraging the masses to get involved with some decent riffs and growing hooks. Again, a tasty little prospect, and it’s always great to see some hard-working bands being given an opportunity by some of the genre’s older hands.
Both support slots were suitably successful at warming us all up, but time still seemed to fly by, probably due to the excitement of the arrival of the main man. The guy who had spent the earlier part of the night checking out both supports from the side of stage sound booth, showing his love and appreciation for all things ‘music’; Sir Ginger of Wildheart.
Accompanied by Chris Catalyst, ‘Random’ Jon Poole, Victoria Liedtke, Denzel and Rich Jones, Ginger stormed the stage and blasted straight into the yet-to-be-released-on-a-physical-shiny-disc-of-joy ‘Another Spinning Fucking Rainbow’ from the forthcoming Pledge Music triple album, 555%. Amazingly, the song was treated like an old friend and got the show off to an energetic start.
A bouncy Girls Are Better Than Boys and Mazel Tov Cocktail made sure the momentum stayed high and when Anyway But Maybe arrived, the crowd were as deafening as the riffs. Sonic Shake reminded everyone how much they wanted another Silver Ginger 5 record, whilst Taste Aversion and Confusion showed a huge amount of promise as future live favourites despite, again, being taken from Ginger’s future 555% release.
I’m always a sucker for You Took The Sunshine From New York which saw the band as harmonious as ever, and by slotting Do The Channel Bop into the encore, the smiles across the room were growing by the second.
Rounding things off with Inglorious (despite requests for yet another newie, Westward Ho!) the crowd took one last opportunity to go suitably apeshit, at THAT classic, timeless riff.
I saw Ginger at Ashton’s Witchwood last year on his acoustic tour, as well as at the back-end of 2011 at Moho Live and in all honesty, the shows just get better and better. The band seemed even tighter than ever, and Ginger has always been a pro at connecting with the crowd, as proven by the banter on his Grievous Acoustic Behaviour CD and as witnessed by anyone who’s been to see him live.
This time out, Ginger seemed even more engaging, laughing and joking throughout the show and happily responding to questions and other heckles. He seems to be a refreshingly down to earth guy, even broaching the question as to why he hadn’t played in his hometown on this tour, firmly blaming clueless promoters who don’t know a good thing when they see one. After this show, I can honestly say that their loss was our gain.
The rest of the band also kept the crowd going with excitable performances, beer provision (thanks for the Stella, Chris!) and suitably madcap antics (Random Jon) to make the show a brilliant all-round night.
Surprisingly though, the set list didn’t feature anything from P.H.U.Q. (still a favourite album of mine), and only one track from Earth Vs, but maybe that’s the point of these ‘solo’ shows; they really do prove what a weighty set of songwriting bollocks Ginger has outside of the band in which he first found fame.
He quite rightly throws a few (mainly later era) Wildhearts tunes into the set, but the majority of tracks that are hammered out are taken from Ginger’s equally impressive, and actually quite musically diverse solo/collaboration discography.
Overall, the night was a great success. A largely knobhead-free crowd (always a bonus), some energising support and a typically strident effort from Ginger’s entire band ensured that a bunch of people who were probably old enough to know better traipsed home in the rain sweaty and with a big grin on their suckerpunched faces.