What kind of time for doors is 5pm on a Thursday night? Early finishes, especially on a weeknight, I get, especially when the audience demographic is predominantly people in their 40s – parents, full-time workers, and so on. But how many full-time workers and parents are going to be able to get themselves to catch a band starting at 5:30? Its simply a matter of logistics, of course: when three major-league bands have headline-length sets ahead of a 10:45 finish, something’s got to give.
As it happens, the turnout for Doggy – the fourth band on the bill, but hardly a minor-league act from back in the day – is pretty decent. The crowd show their appreciation, and the band in turn reward their presence with a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining half-hour set that’s packed with hits.
The first of the three big names (who must have more final shows and farewell tours between them than I’ve had hangovers) on the bill for this rotating-headline tour is The Wildhearts. A band I was never really into at the time, their reputation and a cracking live act endures perhaps beyond their recorded legacy. As a solo performer, Ginger’s certainly sustained interest in the band, and maintained their popularity. With the full band, they rip into their set with ‘Sick of Drugs’ and ‘TV Tan’ as an opening gambit. ‘Caffeine Bomb’ perfectly exemplifies their blend of big guitars and equally big melodic hooks, and it’s fun with a capital ‘f’. It’s not just the songs, or the bantz, or the community fostered by a lighter-waving anthem like ‘Geordie in Wonderland’: it’s the full package. The warmth in the room isn’t just radiation and sweat. And of course, they close with ‘I Wanna Go Where the People Go’. Which, it seems, is precisely where we all are.
I’ll admit I never dug Reef. Their second-rate Zeppelinisms, paired with Gary Stringer’s overconfident strut and swagger which far exceeded the capacity of his straining vocal, just left me cold. And sandwiched between The Wildhearts and Terrorvision, the two-hit-wonders were always going to have their work cut out. But the fact that time has practically stood still for Tony Wright and crew, who barely seem a day older than they did twenty years ago throws into even sharper relief how fucking ancient these guys look. Stringer looks like a stand-in for Andrew Lincoln in ‘The Walking Dead’ and the guitarist looks like Dumbledore. Sadly, there’s not so much fretwork wizardry on display. But – averting my eyes from the shameful mum-dancing the band inspire, particularly during ‘Place Your Hands’ and ‘Come Back Brighter’ which they throw in back-to-back midway through a set that opens with ‘Naked’ – I have to admit they do a decent job of keeping the crowd going. Their cover of The Faces’ Stay with Me’ and ‘Yer Old’ whips things up nicely near the end, but closing on ‘End’ from the new album seems a questionable choice.
It's hard to believe Tony Wright is 50, or that Terrorvision’s heyday was the best part of 20 years ago. They bounce onto the stage with the vitality of a band fully 30 years younger, but with the assurance – and massive catalogue of hits – appropriate to a band who have an impressive career under their belts (which haven’t been expanded. They’re looking trim and exuberant, and maintain this energy throughout their 80-minute set). Wight pogos and high-kicks and leaps and bounds relentlessly, and doesn’t even look short of breath.
They have enough hits to pack a set even without the inclusion of their biggest hit (‘Tequila’) or my personal favourite (‘Bad Actress’). But it’s well-planned: there’s no let up in the pace, and aside from the occasional break to lead chants of ‘Yorkshire! Yorkshire!’ as happens around these parts – and they are local lads, after all, with Bradford practically being part of the Leeds conurbation).
They throw in ‘Alice What’s the Matter?’ early on, and the second half is back-to-back crowd-pleasing single cuts, from ‘Celebrity Hit List’ and ‘Perseverance’ with ‘III Wishes’ and ‘My House’ and concluding the min set with ‘D’Ya Wanna go Faster’ an encoring with ‘Pretend Best Friend and ‘Oblivion’. The crowd are bloody loving it, and there are fair few crowd-surfers landing in the pit, to the annoyance of the security staff who are half their age.
Of course every second of this gig marathon is pure nostalgia, but it’s much harder to criticise when the acts are on absolute peak form and bring as much energy and enthusiasm as ‘back in the day’. There’s not so much as a second where there’s a sense that any of the bands on the bill are going through the motions or giving less than everything to their performance. As such, the Bitrock Must be Destroyed! tour is a triumph: sure, the audience are older and reliving their collective youth, but the sheer energy and enjoyment of the performances are proof positive that this is more about the love than the money. And for that, respect is due.