Two decades on from their Earth Vs.The Wildhearts debut, the English outfit has been stopping off at various locales around the globe, commemorating one of the era's best (when rock/metal was declared dead, thanks to the grunge influx), but criminally overlooked albums. In a post-NIRVANA Nevermind world, an upbeat/punky fun-loving poke-in-the-eye to the dark underbelly of society, even on a major label, did virtually nothing in the USA, where THE WILDHEARTS have remained a cult favorite ever since. So a NYC date (May 31, Gramercy Theater), playing said disc in its entirety, was something I couldn't miss. They stuck around, for a more career spanning show, in Brooklyn, the next night and a Ginger solo/band gig at Mercury Lounge, that Sunday.
Like some unsigned band, Ginger actually played three sets tonight. The first with his six-piece, female co-vocalist solo project (during which he wore a dress jacket), then the complete Earth Vs., which in and of itself would have sufficed, but then returning, after yet another wardrobe change, for a run through of other Wildhearts hits. Owing much to the 50s (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more), like The Wildhearts, there's a tinge of rockabilly in the solo outfit. They ran through previously unfamiliar numbers 'Swimwear', 'Brain Sugar' and Taste Aversion', before closing with 'Sonic Shake', all the while, the frontman joked about a broccoli stench emanating onstage (inside joke?).
Having ditched the suit coat for a leather jacket, a slicked back hair Ginger and bald CJ, with suit-vest and tie, motley colored guitar in hand, took us on a wild ride through the classic debut. 'Greetings From Shitsville' kicked things off in high spirits, a devoted fanbase practically singing every lyric. As yellow and pink lights shone down from above, a punk fueled 'Everlone' saw the previously static foursome onstage burst to life. The song downshifts towards the end. A self-deprecating Ginger, for one of the rare moments, addressed the audience, saying "There's lots of (other) things you could be doing in the Big Banana (tonight)." On an almost blackened stage, except for the guitar/vocalist, hands clapped overhead, leading into a (sarcastic?) pink lit 'Loveshit'. The audience response to 'Miles Away Girl' sort of stunned Ginger. The recorded intro to 'My Baby Is A Headfuck' got the crowd going. Looking sort of like Conan O'Brien meets Social Distortion, Ginger steps to the front of the stage, with his oversize white guitar to deliver the snippet of THE BEATLES 'Day Tripper' which crops up in the song. Quite the sight to see a crowd of adults shouting the quickly repeated "Headfuck" chorus! Seguing directly into another speedster, the hard-driving 'Suckerpunch'. Ginger lamented having to try to live off the first album, prior to a catchy 'News Of The World'. Before the set/album ending 'Love U Til I Don't' (complete with o-la-la chorus), Ginger joked (?), "Gonna go back stage and have some heroin and then come back."
True to his word, they returned to offer songs from the rest of their career. Must admit, after Versus, was not all that interested, my main reason for attending having been accomplished, smiling all the while. Scouted out the merch booth, but sadly only one (exclusive) design for NYC and a couple for Ginger solo. 'Caffeine Bomb' (which appears on the reissued version of Earth Vs.), was one of the better received numbers, as they dug deep into their war chest. 'Turning American' sort of threatened to bite the hand that feeds, on this occasion, but 'Mazel Tov Cocktail', 'Beautiful Thing You', 'Red Light-Green Light' and 'Sick Of Drugs' touched on all aspects of the last two decades, before ending with 'I Wanna Go Where The People Go', off P.H.U.Q.
A clever wordsmith, with a bit of a Devil's streak, backed by infectious melodies... What's not to like?
Additional photos can be seen here