The Wildhearts are the greatest British band who, despite a fanatical, unwavering following of thousands of discerning rockers nationwide, never became huge.
They could have done, they should have done, but a whole range of problems, largely of their own making, thwarted and impeded progress to mega-stardom. Internal ructions and splits, fallings out with record companies, drug abuse and mental health problems… they’ve done the lot.
And age hasn’t slowed down their self-destructive tendencies. Just prior to rejoining the band, a couple of years ago, bassist, Danny McCormack, lost a leg after injecting a heady cocktail of cocaine and amphetamines into his groin (he now takes the weight off halfway through gigs by taking to a stool).
Currently touring their first full album in ten years, the towering masterpiece, ‘Renaissance Men’, which is also an excuse to celebrate their 30th anniversary, The Wildhearts are playing a marathon slog of smaller venues up and down the country. Tonight, they hit Holmfirth, famously the setting of the long-running geriatric sitcom, ‘Last of the Summer Wine’.
Fittingly, they pay tribute by playing the gentle strains of its famous theme tune as the lights go down, before bursting onto the stage with the first of the night’s short, sharp, joyous pop-rockers, ‘Diagnosis’ – the title track of their recent six-track EP. Like much of their material, it’s about mental health – band leader, Ginger Wildheart, famously suffers from manic depression – and the proceeds are going to The Samaritans.
Although The Wildhearts change their setlist from show to show, they draw heavily from the ‘Renaissance Men’ album tonight, with ‘My Kinda Movie’, ‘Dislocated’ and ‘Fine Art of Deception’ the standout tracks for me.
Older faves, ‘Mindslide’ and ‘Caffeine Bomb’, from 1993’s debut, ‘Earth Vs The Wildhearts’, are greeted with roars of approval from the packed house, with most audience members singing along to every word.
I’m at the front near the speakers, stage left, between Mr McCormack and Ginger, the sound is deafening but crystal clear and just for tonight, Holmfirth is the world’s rock capital city. The perfect night for me is sealed when the band seeks suggestions for their encores and my shouted call for classic, ‘Everlone’ is taken up with delighted grins. Doubtless chaos, calamity and misfortune will continue to dog this reckless bunch of road warriors, but their talent and geniality will always shine through and carry them onwards. As long as they can always muster up a stool for Danny, I wouldn’t bet against them celebrating their 40th anniversary.