Live Review : The Wildhearts + The Professionals + Janus Stark @ The Live Rooms, Chester on October 7th 2019
Why is it I’ve never seen The Wildhearts before?, I think to myself as I’m driving across the M56 heading for Chester. For a band of some 30 year standing and myself, a rock fan of some 40 years, I have to say that I’m slightly perplexed at the fact that our paths haven’t yet crossed before. Perhaps it’s because I’m lazy in my musical choices at times, or maybe that when the Geordie superstars first burst onto the scene I was still shaking my poodle mullet to the likes of Whitesnake and Kiss, with my heavier musical tastes grinding right to a halt no heavier than Judas Priest or Motorhead. Either way, tonight we’re putting it right and leaping at the opportunity to review one of the hardest working class, self- imploded bands that have ever graced the UK’s music scene, and who are currently busy on part 2 of their tour supporting their first album in 10 years, “Renaissance Men”. As well as re-education on what I've been missing out on, I’m also hoping that they will rip me a new one in the process by ways of a suitable punishment.
The Live Rooms is a cracking venue; there’s something about small venues that I completely love; they really connect the band and audience together. Not that these boys need that though; their hardcore followers would move heaven itself to see their heroes play anywhere, and looking around the crowd they’re here to worship at their altar. It's predominantly male, middle aged and have likely to have largely followed The Wildhearts on every rollercoaster ride over the past 30 years too.
The evening starts with support from 2 bands, firstly Janus Stark and then The Professionals. It’s filling up nicely and a great night's entertainment is in store. Barely 25 past 7 and Janus Stark hit the stage. Featuring the enigmatic guitarist from The Prodigy; Gizz Butt, these chaps have just released their first offering in 21 years having formed around 1998 when he left The Prodigy. Drawing on some heavy Green Day influences and dressed in matching black and red trimmed shirts and looking much like a pub darts team, they fire up with ‘Enemy Lines’. It hits a double top as it wakes the crowd up. Gizz performs rather like Billie Joe Armstrong, leaping about the stage, nailing riff after riff, confidently striking some good moves and singing some pleasant punk rock tunes. It’s all going nicely until a completely pointless guitar solo intros ‘Panic Attack’. They do warm the crowd though, and deservedly get a good round at the end of final number ‘Every Little Things Count’.
The Professionals are another group who also feature some name players, and who also took a hiatus for a few years too. Steve Cook and Paul Jones were part of the Sex Pistols before forming the Pros in '79, taking a break in' 82, until deciding to reform in 2015. Fast forward a couple of years and now minus Mr. Jones, the cockney geezers hit the stage determined to entertain the crowd and have fun at the same time. And they do. Featuring Tom Spencer on vocals and guitar, they pick up from where Janus Stark finish, laying straight into the burgeoning crowd with their Pistol whipped brand of British punk rock. There's hints of all things Sham 69, Buzzcocks yet with that modern twist too. They mean business and their anarchic tales of woe resonate well with the crowd. Dedicating the cheeky song ‘Monkeys’ to PM Boris Johnston they go down really well., playing catchy tunes finishing with their single from 1980; ‘123’.
With just enough time to clear the old eardrums out and fill up the flat beer, the lights go down and The Wildhearts take to the stage. The place is rammed, folk are hanging off the balcony and eager to hear what these boys have to say. Mens mental health awareness, depression, drink and drugs are subjects that The Wildhearts are somewhat experts in, so it's no surprise that they kick off with the latest single ‘Diagnosis’ off the new mini album and also on “Renaissance Men”. It's classic Wildhearts; fast, catchy, melodic and hits like an express train. With proceeds donated to the Samaritans, Ginger, CJ and Co have plenty to say on institutions, the government and so much more as well. They want to educate the world, and starting each night with this banger means we're here to listen to the people that's probably better qualified than most to talk about these current and meaningful topics. There's no let up as we head straight into ‘Let ‘Em Go’, the new material is, according to the critics, their best since their classic debut “Earth vs The Wildhearts” back in the early '90s. Ginger certainly knows how to work the crowd up and the boys launch into ‘I Wanna Go Where The People Go’ from 1995"s “PHUQ”. It's loud, and getting louder. My girlfriend looks at me nervously- this ain't no Rick Astley gig I'm afraid, I mentally tell her as things keep hotting up further with ‘Sick of Drugs’, ‘The Revolution Will Be Televised’, then another newbie in ‘My Kinda Movie’. Before long we get the absolute classic ‘Caffeine Bomb’, the crowd near the stage are pogoing like little Duracell bunnies. Who cares? No one at all, no one's playing on their phones, just engrossing themselves with every word of every song, hook after hook, riff after riff. We're hit between the eyes with ‘Dislocated’, ‘Jackson Whites’, ‘Red Light, Green Light’, ‘Vanilla Radio’, another new one ‘Fine Art of Deception’ before bringing the set to a close with ‘Action Panza’.
Will they return for an encore? Of course they will, how about 3, and bang!, we're off back to 2003 for the single ‘Top of The World’ from “The Wildhearts must be Destroyed”. The audience love it and get ‘Anthem’ before the wonderful ‘My Baby is a Headfuck’ brings the evening to a rapturous close. My ears are ringing, and even the girlfriend is smiling. What a great night!
Words by Phil Beswick
Photography by Johann Wierzbicki