It takes a very special act to open for The Wildhearts and have the whole crowd dancing and singing along but tonight I witnessed that very feat being accomplished.
If you’ve never heard of Tragedy, let me enlighten you. Invited onto the tour by none other than Ginger from The Wildhearts himself, they’re an 8 piece band from New York City who have tapped into a niche market — as the world’s best (and probably only) Heavy Metal Tribute to the Bee Gee’s. I shit you not!
Romping onto the stage in glittery sequined spandex hotpants that would make The Darkness blush with embarrassment they kicked off with a rendition of ‘Saturday Night Fever’ in a short set which included hits such as ‘Tragedy’, ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ and ‘Stayin’ Alive’ all done with screaming guitar solo’s and 3 backing singers (with fairy wings).
It was amusing to see the couples in the crowd, the girls were dancing away and singing loudly, the guys looked like they wanted to but didn’t want to look like they were enjoying themselves, this was supposed to be a hard rock gig, after all!
In the end Tragedy left the stage to massive applause. I got the impression that it was the sort of act which either got clapped off loudly or bottled off in the first song but their energy, humour and skill in turning disco classics into stomp-along rock anthems saved them.
Following that would be a challenge for the best of bands, and one which UK rockers “A” had to manage and manage it they did. Back after their 3 year hiatus, the Leeds 4 piece look just as comfortable here as they ever did at their best and sounded no different for being a little older, despite Adam saying that various body parts now sag a bit more than they used to. Luckily, his voice hasn’t suffered and hit the high notes with ease during ‘Nothing’ and ‘Starbucks’ — which he introduced as “The song which paid our mortgages”.
They played a good 45 minute set which included enough favourites for the crowd to be reminded that at their peak, this was one of the best live bands around. If “A” are serious about a comeback they need to get some new tunes out and there are plans afoot for a new album. Time will tell if they’re still relevant in the music industry, but on the showing tonight they’ll have no problems filling venues with people eager to see them.
The Wildhearts have always offered value for money in terms of their set lists, and tonight was no exception. Still, value for money or not, tonight’s gig was shifted from the Civic Hall into the Wulfrun Hall due to lower ticket sales. This didn’t go down well with those who had balcony seats in the bigger venue and now had to stand on the floor-only venue next door but that was the only grumble I heard all night.
What can’t be complained at is a 19 song set list which featured just about everything that any die-hard fan wanted to hear. Smashing their way through ‘Nita Nitro’ they kicked off the show with their trademark snarl and followed straight into ‘Vanilla Radio’ which had the first 6 rows bouncing like the teenagers they were when they first started seeing the band here some 18 years ago.
The whole set was delivered with aggression and Ginger’s typical attitude, not even his sore throat could stop him. During the mid-song conversations with the crowd you could hear his voice was cracking up badly but he didn’t pull out of any of the songs’ high notes and still went for it in his trademark balls-out way.
A little over half way through the set the band left the stage for what was either the biggest encore I’ve ever seen, or a half time break, I’m not sure which it was. Five minutes later Ginger re-appeared to huge cheers and performed a solo version of ‘Geordie In Wonderland’ which had everyone in the place singing their hearts out. I wondered if any of the crowd noticed that he did so swathed in red and white lights, which as any self respecting football fan would know is Sunderland’s home colours — Newcastle’s bitter rivals!
The rest of the band came back on and they ran through the last 7 songs in their inimitable juggernaut style, mixing crunching guitars, sweeping melodies, smartly written lyrics and a lot of jumping around.
Running over the curfew time by a good 10 minutes they left after lifting the roof of with a high-tempo rendition of ‘I Wanna Go Where The People Go’ which reminded everyone present that good honest music played loudly will never go out of fashion.
Review & Photos – Matt Pargeter