It's a lovely, soggy night in Bristol, with the prospect of The Wildhearts making the rain bearable. Shunted to the untrendy Anson Rooms, presumably because none of the bigger venues had space to fit around the tour, the gig seems almost low key, although there's certainly plenty of fans waiting to see Newcastle's finest strut their stuff.
The first band on are GU Medicine, but the sound was so loud and distorted it made them almost impossible to stomach, so I did what any self respecting rock journalist would do and scampered to the bar to hide. Next up are the apparently well respected band Sign, who I haven't got the slightest clue about. Their bone thin singer struts about in the tightest pair of low slung white jeans ever made without a shirt and is obviously having a ball playing the rock star. The first track is a loud, metally thing offset by high register vocals that doesn't quite gel with me. I'm wondering if I'll be seeing the bar again soon as the second song kicks in, but then everything falls into place. What emerges is a compelling end result of a cloning experiment that throws together equal parts of Skid Row and Vain (coincidentally two bands I saw play together in the stone age). Singer Zolberg struts and minces around like Seb Bach after a crash diet, and the music just pins you up against the wall, in a nice way. Just as I'm writing my Skid Row comparisons smugly in my notebook, the Icelandic quartet launch into a brilliant version of "Youth Gone Wild" that stands up to the original no problem. It's a short set, but Sign have certainly left their mark on the crowd. Check out a few tracks for yourself at www.myspace.com/sign and jump on the Icelandic bandwagon.
I've seen The Wildhearts a few times now and know exactly what to expect. Thing is, being predictable isn't a bad thing when you're as good as they are. Straight from the off the band go for the throat, chucking "Vanilla Radio", "Caffeine Bomb" (all strobe lights and hyperactivity), "TV Tan" and "Someone That Won't Let me Go" without pausing for breath. That's four tracks so good that many bands would save them for an encore, but The Wildhearts have so many songs this goiod they can throw them in anywhere. There's a brief pause as Ginger informs us that this must be Bristol because "There's girls in the audience", then they bring out a track from their self titled new album (only released the day before), "The Revolution Will Be Televised" which naturally slots in with no problems besides the established favourites. Watching The Wildhearts is like watching your best mate's band, so relaxed and happy is the atmosphere, despite the fact that some of their songs are saved from being out and out heavy metal by some cunningly crafted melodies and hooks. "Suckerpunch" for example, may well be the heaviest melodic rock song ever written, but you still find yourself dancing. Each song is played with energy and delight, with the band being so tight it seems almost effortless. I swear that one of the lighting technicians must be an ex world war 2 searchlight operator, with the only things missing an air raid siren and Lemmy collecting souvenirs. At one point Ginger threatens to sing "Every song we've ever written", which would be impossible because Ginger seems to write songs at the same rate Bill Gates makes money, and the concert would never actually end. Unfortunately, this one has to end, after a spirited encore of the new albums 8 minute opener "Rooting For The Bad Guy" and "I Wanna Go Where The People Go" that's our lot. Another great gig from the rock equivalent of a terminal sugar rush. As Ginger puts it so eloquently: "Thanks to The Wildhearts for still being alive."
29 April 2007