Britrock Must Be Destroyed: Dodgy, The Wildhearts, Reef, Terrorvision – Live Review – Leeds O2 Academy
By Victoria Holdsworth, May 2018
You could not have picked a better day for a battle of champions. Outside, the sun was beating down, and inside the O2 academy in Leeds, the temperature was through the roof, as four contenders rose to the challenge of destroying Britrock.
This was going to be an epic afternoon and evening, and almost felt like a small scale indoor festival, as these legendary UK bands shared the stage. Who would be victorious? Who would take home the glory of the Leeds crowd tonight, in a nationwide tour that has proved there is plenty of life in these old dogs yet.
First on the bill this evening were Dodgy, who achieved more of a following on the power indie pop scene rather than ‘Britrock’. The crowd were still kind of milling into the venue, except for the die-hard Dodgy fans, although there did not seem to be that many kicking around in Leeds tonight.
Even though I am not a fan of Dodgy, they performed a solid set that included their essential chart toppers, ‘Staying out for the Summer’ and ‘Good Enough’. Tonight the Dodgy collective even threw in a new tune called ‘California Gold’, which got the fans tapping a foot or too. But it was a pretty bland, run-of-the-mill performance, and I was bewildered as to how they even made it on to the bill in the first place. Sadly the Hounslow boys did not set the tone for the bands to come.
“In fine voice”
Round two was one of Newcastle’s finest, The Wildhearts, and as Ginger and the boys strode out on stage, looking ready to blow the place apart, the crowd seemed to be a little bigger and more accepting, but were almost like wallflowers. Maybe it was the heat that had gotten to folks, however once they blasted into ‘Sick Of Drugs’ you could tell that the bar had been significantly raised.
All the tunes in The Wildhearts’ set tonight seemed to keep on notching up to the next level, then the next, and ‘My Baby Is A Headfu*k’ was just sheer brilliance both vocally and musically, with some really dirty, fuzzed out, power guitar work from Ginger.
The set consisted of a vast delve into an extensive back catalogue. The first album, Earth vs The Wildhearts, got its cobwebs blown off even further with the likes of, ‘Everlone’ and ‘Greetings From Shitsville’.
Ginger was in fine voice and fettle tonight and he apologised for not chatting too much, because they had about thirteen songs to get through. However, when has a Wildhearts fan ever known Ginger to keep quiet? He shared some of his recent personal life with his crowd, and was proud to tell everyone that he now lives in Yorkshire, after a recent move to York, so from then on; Ginger introduced all the songs as songs about York, or York and Geordies.
Recently returned bassist, Danny McCormack however was not in the best of shapes, and had to sit down for the entire gig with his leg in a support cast, but this did not deter him from absolutely blasting some fat and racing basslines through the set.
“Catchy chorus after chorus”
The crowd were pretty quiet for Wildhearts fans, although it was noted a few times by Ginger as he tried to rally his troops. But he knew which song it would take, and as the band explode into ‘Caffeine Bomb’ the crowd went crazy. This in turn sparked Ginger into a higher gear, and the switch had been flicked, resulting in the whole building coming alive.
There were sing-a-longs galore for the remainder of the set, and some fine guitar finger work from Ginger, especially on ‘5 Days Long’ and the crowd pleasing ‘Geordie In Wonderland’, which had Ginger directing his crowd like a farmer with his sheepdogs, commanding them with a “Hup! Hup!” as they hung on his every move. It was catchy chorus after chorus, with some wild riffs, and I have never heard them sound so good.The band were all sharply on point tonight, with the highlight tunes for me being the last three of the set, which saw stellar performances of ‘Love U Til I Don’t’, ’29 x The Pain’ and festival favourite, ‘I Wanna Go Where The People Go’.
By the end of their set, everyone wanted more, and I think Ginger and the lads would have played all night if they had let them. The next band out would have to ramp it up to surpass such greatness.
Reef picked up the gauntlet and ran with the atmosphere created by Ginger et al, and used it to magnificent effect. I had always been a fan of Reef, but somehow never got to see them play live, so I really didn’t know what to expect, but what I did get from their set was out of this world!
Although his hair is longer now, and his fresh-faced look has now been replaced by a large greying beard, Gary Stringer’s vocal talents have only kept on improving over the years.
Reef completely dominated the entire stage, for the entire set, and stole the hearts of the crowd, right from the first song, ‘Naked’. Stringer prowled around the stage like he owned it, and for that hour and fifteen minutes he did.
There were a great deal of soul sounding bangers, and a balanced mix of old and new tracks, all sounding as fresh and as hard rocking as the day they were first sung. These guys are one of the tightest units around, and with new guitarist Jesse Wood, son of Rolling Stone Ronnie, they are a force to be reckoned with.
Booming out hits such as ‘Stone For Your Love’, ‘I Would Have Left You’ and ‘Don’t You Like It’, you could feel every fibre of the building vibrate, and sensing that the time was right, they dropped the big gun, ‘Place Your Hands’. The audience went ballistic, and you can only imagine what Terrorvision’s Tony Wright must have been thinking in the wings, having to follow some lungs like Stringer’s.
“Delicious blues riffs”
‘Come Back Brighter’ from the ’97 album Glow, was so much meatier than I remember it and there were a few times that Gary got his microphone lead so caught up in the lighting rigs at the side of the stage, he nearly pulled the whole thing down.
With a self-assured swagger, they threw out some of their newer material to a great reception, and the track ‘Precious Metal’ will completely blow you away with its AC/DC overtones and guitar noodling, before stealthily slipping into a Faces classic, ‘Stay With Me’. The versatility of Gary Stringer’s voice is immense, which was highlighted even more when he did the duet, originally recorded with Sheryl Crow, ‘My Sweet Love’. Sadly I didn’t catch the name of the young lady singing with him, but I would have rather had her than Crow any day of the week.
Another track from Glow, which really stood out tonight as a masterpiece was ‘Summer In Bloom’, by which point the crowd was all heaving forward to crowd surf their way to the front, as Gary took another walk in and out of the crowd.
They unleashed a remarkable version of ‘Revelation’, which is soaked, like many other of their songs, in some delicious blues riffs. It will make all the hairs on the back of your neck stand to attention, especially with that voice, smothering every note with an extra helping of Stringer’s honeyed tones.
Reef ended their set with two amazing anthems. ‘Yer Old’ and ‘End’ sent the volume levels soaring, and the lads were absolutely fearless tonight in their delivery of every song, and at this stage of the night, I would have said that Reef had this one in the bag, or had the promoters saved the best until last?
“No intention of slowing things down”
I guess it was always inevitable that one of the greatest things to come out of Yorkshire would be the headliners, and Tony Wright and his merry band of men ran onto the stage, like a bunch of primary school kids that had been let out for play time.
Tonight saw Tony dressed for the occasion, in a smart tight fitting suit, all fresh faced and full of his usual tigger-ness, and I would swear that he looks younger every time I see him. With Terrorvision’s reputation as a party band preceding them, they had a lot to live up to. However, Mr Wright was relishing this challenge, opening with a small musical back noted tingle of ‘Tequila’, the Bradford lads roared into the energy fuelled ‘Discotheque Wreck’, from How To Make Friends And Influence People.
‘Friends And Family’, a personal favourite of mine from the album Good To Go, just seemed to light the blue touch paper, and the audience went absolutely crazy as Tony pitted one side against the other, chanting “Party over here/Fuck you over there”.
It is a few songs in now that they make their usual announcement of: ‘We’re Terrorvision from Bradford’ before the unmistakable intro to ‘Alice What’s The Matter’ kicks in and everyone in the building is surging forward to be a part of it, as they play it even harder and dirtier than I have heard before, and Tony’s voice never falters.
The set tonight was essentially a greatest hits feast, with the headliners having the indulgence of a slightly larger song list than the previous bands. With the likes of ‘Didn’t Bleed Red’ and ‘If I Was You’ the band showed they had no intention of slowing things down. Leigh Marklew and Mark Yates were throwing down some excellent guitar work tonight, not to mention stage antics.
‘American TV’, from their first album Formaldehyde, really showed the strength of Mr. Wright’s vocal talents, and whilst he doesn’t have such soulful tones as Gary Stringer, you cannot take away the fact that he sings with the same power, and this does not let up as he slips straight into ‘What Makes You Tick’.
Inevitably, they do play a slower tune, ‘Middleman’, and Tony asks the crowd to chant “Yorkshire!” throughout the chorus, to which his adoring public oblige without a moment’s hesitation, helping the front man firmly stamp his band’s colours all over the O2 this evening.
One of the best songs they have in their repertoire came next, and the performance of ‘Alone’ was outstandingly good, and a real crowd-pleaser. At this stage in their set, there are bodies being hauled out of the crowd at the front of the stage, such is the intensity and enjoyment of the fans.
The sing-a-longs continued with ‘Celebrity Hit List’ and ‘Whales And Dolphins’, and whilst these are not the most popular of their tunes, it certainly didn’t matter tonight, they were lapped up.
Another stand out tune, ‘III Wishes’ was still sounding worthy of a film soundtrack, and the lesser-known ‘Demolition Song’, from Super Delux, also showed what a good song writer Tony Wright can actually be. Sensing it was time to create further frenzy; Terrorvision shredded through ‘My House’, and then delivered another all-out performance of ‘Some People Say’.
‘Josephine’ was the calm before the storm, as they approached the end of the set, and a manic performance of ‘D’ya Wanna Go Faster?’ saw an audience eruption of Donnington levels, and in the blink of an eye they were gone, but not for long, with an encore of two more.
“Engaging and energetic”
‘Pretend Best Friend’ was lively and Tony still pulls off every single word with the same speed and precision as he did back in 1994. Itl remains a firm favourite, before ending on their most recognisable anthem to date, ‘Oblivion’.
It would appear that the regular urban survivors had absolutely nailed this round of the tour, but it was only to be expected really. All that was missing was the heavyweight belt.
The songs from all the bands have certainly endured the tests of time, and they all made an impression, but somehow I think Terrorvision nailed it tonight, with their engaging and energetic performance, guaranteeing there would have been some sore bones the next morning
There was a lot of love tonight for all the bands, and there are not that many groups who give such effort to involving the crowd at gigs – and each band even managed to win over the fans of the other bands.
Tonight ‘Britrock’ was not destroyed, it was affirmed as the greatest in the world (with the exception of Dodgy). The event was uniquely successful, and makes me long even more for smaller, more accessible festivals that can cater for this genre of music.