The Wildhearts: A Triumphant Return At O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire

If there’s one thing rock ‘n’ roll fans love, it’s a good comeback story. A street survivor or anyone who is still standing, touring, and playing usually has the respect of the crowd on their side and a cache of goodwill that should not be underestimated. This takes us nicely onto the one and only Mr Ginger Wildheart and The Wildhearts.

The Wildhearts – Florence Black

O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 6 June 2024

Words: Kahmel Farahani

Photography: Eric Duvet

Ginger has run through more lives than your average cat and almost as many band members in his more than 35 years in the music business. Tonight, The Wildhearts kick off their UK tour with an entirely new lineup, some new songs and a fistful of classic punk rock anthems.

The Wildhearts - O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire - 6 June 2024
The Wildhearts – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 6 June 2024. Photo: Eric Duvet/MetalTalk

Striding on stage and launching right into Sleepaway, Ginger and company bash through a setlist full of deep cuts and fan favourites.

“The lineups may change, but you always stay the same,” Ginger tells the audience, acknowledging the elephant in the room head-on. Tonight, he is joined by the ironically named Random Jon Poole on the bass, alongside Ben Marsden on guitar and Pontus Snibb behind the drum kit. 

The Wildhearts - O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire - 6 June 2024
The Wildhearts – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 6 June 2024. Photo: Eric Duvet/MetalTalk

“Tonight, we have some old, some new and some brand new songs for you.”

Playing back-to-back classics, I Wanna Go Where The People Go, and Caffeine Bomb gets the fans really moving with a pit forming. It’s the highlight of the night, but it comes very early in the evening. It’s followed by a truly deep cut called Slaughtered Authors, which Ginger says the band has never played live before. 

The Wildhearts - O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire - 6 June 2024
The Wildhearts – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 6 June 2024. Photo: Eric Duvet/MetalTalk

“Looking down at this setlist, I’m not sure if I recognise all these songs…..here’s a song you’ll recognise,” says Ginger. The band’s classic anthem deriding the drivel played by many a popular radio station, Vanilla Radio, still sounds as lively as ever. It’s followed by new music.

“We recorded a new album back in January that should be coming out around September,” Ginger tells the crowd,  “This is the first song off that record – called Eventually.”

The song itself is good and heavy. Mid-tempo, riff-driven and with a killer break, it’s got all the ingredients of classic The Wildhearts. Certainly a very hopeful sign for those fans waiting on the new album.

The Wildhearts - O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire - 6 June 2024
The Wildhearts – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 6 June 2024. Photo: Eric Duvet/MetalTalk

Starting an encore that begins with Welcome To Shitsville and ends with Caprice, The Wildhearts depart and leave a happy and, by this point, very sweaty crowd behind.

The Wildhearts - O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire - 6 June 2024
The Wildhearts – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 6 June 2024. Photo: Eric Duvet/MetalTalk

Tonight’s performance delivers a comfortable pat on the shoulder rather than the traditional punch in the throat of raw punk energy that one would expect from The Wildhearts. Whether it’s just the sound of a new band warming to each other or not, time will tell.

The questions around new music and the new band still remain, but there can be no doubt that Ginger Wildheart is still surviving and flying the flag for the grittiest end of the rock ‘n’ roll spectrum.

That in itself is a cause for celebration.

The Wildhearts - O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire - 6 June 2024
The Wildhearts – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 6 June 2024. Photo: Eric Duvet/MetalTalk

Florence Black

Tonight, the Welsh power trio of Florence Black provided the opening entertainment on a bill of punk-flavoured British hard rock.

Florence Black - O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire - 6 June 2024
Florence Black – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 6 June 2024. Photo: Eric Duvet/MetalTalk

Songs like Bird On A Chain and Solid 9 are fun, energetic riff-driven rockers, but after a while, they do tend to sound rather similar. Sun And Moon is easily the stand-out song of their set. With some light and shade, it’s a more interesting and memorable prospect.

Keeping the tried and tested modern radio-friendly hard rock style is what Florence Black does very well, and they do receive a fairly warm reaction from a relatively large segment of the crowd. 

Florence Black - O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire - 6 June 2024
Florence Black – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 6 June 2024. Photo: Eric Duvet/MetalTalk

The band repeatedly thank the crowd for showing up and listening and it is genuinely impressive to see a band working hard and keeping humble like them.

One can only hope that their songwriting and performance continue to evolve to the next level because their hearts are clearly in the right place.

Florence Black - O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire - 6 June 2024
Florence Black – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 6 June 2024. Photo: Eric Duvet/MetalTalk

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