Stevie R Pearce and the Hooligans, Sheffield Corporation, August 2022.
Stevie Pearce has returned to us, thank God, after a long period of refocus and reflection, and as you’d expect in typical Pearce fashion he has not gone about this quietly. After several months of playing his cards very close to his chest and giving precious little away other than ‘I will be back…at some point’, a brand-new bunch of Hooligans are abruptly announced and a show is imminent. So let’s take a look, what do we have here?
Following the departure of the previous line up Stevie has recruited Charles Evans on drums (Love/Hate) Christian Kimmett on bass (Love/Hate, Warrior Soul) and Ash Tustain on guitar (Dig Lazarus). These guys have been making noise together in one incarnation or another for years, so the first thing you get a sense of when they stroll onto a stage full of smoke and take up their weapons of choice is familiarity. This is a band of brothers, and they are confident, comfortable and effortlessly cool.
As they launch straight in with ‘Over The Top’, Stevie’s announcement of ‘new Hooligans, new sound’ earlier in the week becomes undeniable. He’s a stripped back, authentic version of his rock star persona – gone are the sparkly jackets, the shampoo advert locks and the urbane stage presence, our Stevie is now raw, sweaty and ferocious. The new Hooligans have a completely different energy about them from the previous crew, as of now you’re looking at a heady bunch of dirty rocker boys without a trace of glam between them and their sound is unpolished, punk and packed with grit and attitude. Stevie eyeballs everyone in the room as he delivers the tagline ‘This ain’t safe rock’… it’s both a warning and a promise, and it’s exactly what we want from them.
‘Over The Top’ is followed by ‘Thirteens’, a Black Bullets song from way back in 2011, and it’s the perfect tune to showcase the direction the band are taking – Stevie and Ash’s twin guitars howl with sleaze, Charles’s drums are voracious and Kimmett’s bass has a sexy bite to it that gives you a shiver. A storm is duly kicked up after this brutal introduction with ‘I’m On Fire’ and ‘Going Down’ – both high energy crowd pleasers that are welcomed back eagerly with open arms and dancing feet. Next up is the well beloved ‘Rush Of Blood To The Head’ which brings out the singers in the crowd, before hiking it up a level again with ‘Can’t Turn Your Back On Blood’. This song makes me feel like I’m in the Cathouse Hollywood in 1988. Stevie snaps out the vocals through a veil of sweaty hair and everyone’s right at the top of their game. ‘Nobody Loves You’ chugs into life next and then comes the high point for me personally as we get ‘Fleshwound’ followed by ‘Lunatics By The Pool’ that hilarious epic of social commentary joy that you cannot stand still to. ‘Lunatics’ was the first Hooligans song I ever heard and I was hooked right away; Stevie really brings this one to life when he plays it live with all the laughter, banter and confusion of the narrative stamped on his face and he’s just having fun with it, as it was designed for.
I’m just getting my breath back as they go into ‘Educated Guesser’, a new song that is warmly welcomed by a hungry crowd anxious to hear some recent, unseasoned material. It’s a tease though – no more new tunes to be played tonight but having had just one rehearsal prior to performing this gig (yes you heard that right, ONE rehearsal) I think it would be a bit much to expect, and it’s always good to give fans a taste and then leave them guessing and wanting more.
The final four songs turn the place into a riot. In comes the opening riff of ‘Bad Day’ and it gets raucous. Escalate that times ten for the band’s renowned cover of ‘Folsom Prison’ and anyone who knows anything about the Hooligans will recognise this as a bit of a signature tune, a rough, accelerated mash up of punk and blues, deliberately dirty and loaded with wild lament, a credit to Mr Cash indeed. Then comes ‘Hooligan’ in all its rock star glory and they finish up with a Warrior Soul cover ‘Punk and Belligerent’ which is a song everyone needs to hear right now, its antagonistic rebelliousness lighting a torch inside every person that’s just about had enough of all the shit that’s gone down and the mess we’ve subsequently been dumped in. Refreshing.
The pure smack and tang of a Hooligans show is always a thing of joy, and it’s been great to see how they’ve evolved. The skilled musicianship and high energy levels remain consistent, but this band are edgier, more dangerous and very exciting. I get a sense there’ll be a fair bit of boundary pushing to come and there seems to be a darker core powering this machine currently. The adrenaline is flowing along with the creative juices and this is the perfect line up to achieve what I think Stevie’s going for. He hasn’t given away what the future holds yet, but rest assured there certainly is one. A very intriguing one. All I can say is bring it the fuck on.
Review by Victoria Llewelyn for Crazy Cowboy