The Wildhearts @ Newcastle Riverside, May 12 2019

There was a time when hair of the dog would be the only pick-me-up for self-styled party animal Ginger Wildheart. These days the dog is enough. 

With collie Maggie sporting her exclusive tour laminate backstage, it was time for owner Ginger to be let off the leash inside a sold-out venue crammed to the rafters with barking mad Wildhearts fanatics. 

Safe in the knowledge that his four-legged friend was waiting patiently for the curtain to fall on this final show of a frenzied UK tour, a relaxed and focused Ginger owned his home crowd from start to finish. Even his proud mam was there to see David do the business a stone’s throw from South Shields.

Barkstage Pass

Throughout a career with more ups and downs than Hadrian’s Wall, one of the North East’s most influential musical exports has bounced back from the brink of self-destruction to craft a back catalogue revered by fans and fellow musos alike. Against a backdrop of drugs, booze and searing self-doubt, Ginger has frequently confounded the critics to triumph in adversity but this return to the Toon might have been his biggest victory yet.

And it was secured on the back of brilliant new album Renaissance Men – a record which landed at number 11 in last week’s UK album charts and a long player that’s as richly creative as its title is insanely apt.

Opening up with new tune Dislocated and showcasing the title track, Let ‘Em Go and Diagnosis, The Wildhearts delved deep into their first studio offering in a decade. And they did it with a smile. A sense of pride. And a show of unity.

Hearts Attack

Then there was the bountiful selection of back catalogue classics including the evergreen Everlone, riotous Vanilla Radio, crazed call-to-arms Caffeine Bomb and the wonderful I Wanna Go Where The People Go. Don’t we all?

Wildhearts shows have ranged from the truly memorable to the frustratingly ridiculous during three colourful spells across 30 years but this belter of a gig belonged exclusively to the former category. And an electric atmosphere was helped in no small part by supercharged support Massive Wagons.

Last seen tearing apart the city’s Think Tank?, theirs was a set that sizzled from start to finish. Slicker than frontman Barry Mills’ handlebar moustache, the Lancashire five-piece looked every inch the headliners in waiting: weeks on the road made for a show as tight as it was terrifically entertaining. Late adopters heading to this summer’s Lynyrd Skynyrd arena shows are in for a treat.

Massive Respect

There was time for In It Together – a typically fist-pumping Wagons anthem inspired by the band’s first meeting with Ginger – to tantalise fans patiently awaiting the follow-up to last summer’s Top 20 album Full Nelson. And twin guitarists Adam Thistlethwaite and Stevie Holl tore the Riverside a new one on a blistering rendition of Back To The Stack

Massive Wagons will only get bigger. Park any preconceptions right here, right now.

Band Images By Gordon Armstrong