The Wildhearts ‘P.H.U.Q.’ Live in Nottingham and Manchester

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The Wildhearts are back together for their just about annual tour; this time it’s to celebrate the 20th anniversary of ‘P.H.U.Q.’

As usual, we’re more than willing to go down and review this one. If you pay any sort of attention to you will know that we have a bit of a soft spot for Ginger and co. So much so that one gig wasn’t enough for us, we had to go to two.

Now the general blueprint for this kind of thing is that we go see The Wildhearts, take some photos and then write about how good it was… job done! We’re getting to the stage where we’re running out of superlatives for this band. It’s getting hard to write a live review about The Wildhearts without just repeating what we said last time…

So, let’s mix it up a little bit. Instead of writing as the all-knowing overlord that is Cackblabbath, let’s ditch the we’s and CB’s and just write this one as me, Rob W, a self-confessed Wildhearts nut. Get ready for a completely biased review of my favourite band in the world.

Two nights in a row… Nottingham and Manchester; the first two dates of the tour. My plan was to rush over to Nottingham Rock City after work, get all the photos I needed, watch the show and then get the majority of the review done so that I could have a leisurely day on the beer in Manchester.

That’s roughly what happened, but about half way through the Manchester gig I realised that something special was going on and I was going to have to go back and start again with the review bit.

Day 1:

Wildhearts PHUQ 04Nottingham was an early start due to Thursday being one of Rock City’s many club nights. After an excellent festival season this was my first indoor gig of the autumn, and there’s no better place, in my book, than Rock City to get back into the swing of things. The Wildhearts have a long rich history at Rock City and from the band’s social media it would seem that they did they’re rehearsing right there on the main stage for this tour too.

So they were well settled in; I on the other hand was frazzled from the A52’s legendary traffic…

I was a bit disappointed to see that Rock City wasn’t sold out for this one. The balcony wasn’t open and you could move about pretty freely downstairs too. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it was a poor turnout, it just wasn’t a busy as you’d expect for a complete run through of ‘P.H.U.Q.’

The show itself was good. It didn’t blow me away by any extent of the imagination. Although I’d never really want to see a super-polished version of The Wildhearts, they were noticeably rough around the edges. ‘P.H.U.Q.’ is one of those glorious albums where a lot of the tracks bleed into each other seamlessly for continuous momentum. This shows run-through was far from seamless but it was the first night of the tour, it’s to be expected really.

Ginger gave Notts some love and indeed the venue too, but hats off to Ritch who had me pissing myself with his Stidi impression. CJ kept his head down for most of the set apart from when he was soaking up the “CJ” chants and Random jumped and marched around like a loon. As per…

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After a raucous rendition of ‘Getting It’ the band depart and the crowd take over. “Don’t worry about me” is blasted out by the crowd for what seems like the best part of ten minutes with no let up. A glorious rendition from the audience in Nottingham and probably a fair indicator that a lot of people were into this gig a lot more than I was.

The short encore then proceeded to blow the album performance right out of the water. As the band squeezed in as much as they could before the 10 o’clock curfew; things suddenly became typically excellent to my ears. ‘Vanilla Radio’ and ‘Sick Of Drugs’ ensured Nottingham kept on singing from the break and probably the biggest surprise was the inclusion of ‘Cheers’ which is one of my favourite covers, ever.

So it was a wobbly start with a suckerpunch of a finish. I was going home well satisfied, with another tour shirt to add to my ridiculously large collection and warm in the knowledge that I could do it all again in the tomorrow in sunny Manchester…

Day 2:

A bit of a sleep-in. This was my last day of annual leave for the year so a little recuperation before the onslaught was needed. I had a flick through the photos, jotted down a few notes but there was no chance of getting the review posted online before I set off.

Shower, eat, drop the daughter off at the parents, pick the bro up from his house and we’re on our way for round two! A leisurely drive up to Manchester without the stresses of the day job plus the promise of a few beers and a hotel mean that today is a far more relaxed affair. Manchester is always a great crowd and this show is the biggest venue on the tour. Things are set up nicely.

After a trek around some Manchester pubs and getting on a random bus just hoping it would go past the Academy (it did) I arrived just in time to catch the start of Hey!Hello! again. Both support acts put on a class act but I’m here for one reason really; to sing my lungs out to The Wildhearts.

Wildhearts PHUQ 03Before I know it, the opening bars to the iconic ‘I Wanna Go…’ are ringing out again and I’m singing along and pumping my fist in the air in complete euphoria.

The Manchester crowd is in fine voice, a larger and louder audience than the night before make the atmosphere pretty electric from the start. Apart from a little fracas down the front at the end of ‘Nita Nitro’ and a bit of a mix up in the track ordering courtesy of Ginger, the band blitz through the album part of the show like a runaway train. Just enough of the last nights rough edges have been smoothed off leaving behind the perfect mix of punk and hard rock that sums up the ‘P.H.U.Q’ album and The Wildhearts in their prime.

In the run-up to and the aftermath of Wildheart tours, Ginger can often seem as though The Wildhearts is the last thing on Earth that he wants to do. Across social media and in interviews, he has an obvious preference to his solo and side-project activities these days. He can almost make you feel guilty for still liking the band sometimes…

At Manchester in particularly, he was beaming up there on stage. I’ve never seen the man look so happy fronting a Wildhearts gig. I’ve seen him have some near meltdowns in the past and of course I’ve seen him front the band with a masterful touch in the past, but tonight he genuinely looks like he’s fronting his best gig ever.

It’s just one of those perfect nights where everything clicks. The band, the crowd and the stars align to create one hell of a show.

Wildhearts PHUQ 09As brilliant as the album half of the show was, the second set is again better. ‘Caffeine Bomb’ + ‘Geordie…’ and ‘29x…’ are all undeniable crowd pleasers. Then add in ‘The Revolution…’ and ‘Urge’ (yes, URGE!) and you have the encore that has everything.

There has been a lot of belated love for the ‘Endless, Nameless’ material of late but it still has the majority of the crowd in a stunned silence. I however, thought it was perfect inclusion to the nights activities. A real stunner of a curveball!

It all had to end at some point, but when it did I was just left with the overwhelming feeling that it was the best Wildhearts gig I’d ever been to.  A feeling that has stuck with me a couple of days after too, so it must be true.

Previously, my favourite gig ever was a little gig by The Wildhearts in the Rock City basement as a warm-up for a US tour. It was a ferocious punk blast that took my breath away. I didn’t think anything by any band would ever match that but this latest Manchester show had it all. That raucous punk attitude was there on full display, but the well-crafted hard rock band shone through too. Plus that smile on Ginger’s face put everyone at ease.

If that was the last time I ever see The Wildhearts live then it was a perfect ending. You can’t help thinking that a band in such fine form should be out there making new music; but then this is The Wildhearts and nothing will ever be straight forward in this camp. All we can do is hope that the stars align again soon for the next chapter in this amazing band’s story.