WILDSTREET AND BLOODY HEELS LIVE IN RIGA, LATVIA!
Date: Jun 15, 2023
Location: Riga, Latvia
Reviewer: Jerzy Nykiel
Photos: Jerzy Nykiel
When I saw Bloody Heels in 2019 open for Crashdïet, I said more to myself than to anybody else that I really needed to see Bloody Heels again but this time on their home turf in Riga, Latvia. One pandemic and a few years later, I landed in Riga which meant that my resolution was about to come to fruition. Riga struck me as a charming city still flying high after the Latvian ice hockey team’s unexpected but deserved bronze medal at the Ice Hockey World Championships. But sightseeing had to be pushed to the back burner. My priority was not to miss anything of the Wildstreet / Bloody Heels show at Depo.
Bloody Heels’ show was to be memorable for at least two reasons, or two firsts for the band, to be precise. Despite Riga being their hometown, it was their first time playing at the legendary local club Depo which had hosted numerous shows by a plethora of independent artists since 2002. The other first was the live debut of the new bassist Armand Fox who from now on is going to do double duty as a bassist in Bloody Heels and in his original band Quickstrike. Armand was a little unfortunate because he ended up half hidden behind a column, which happened to grace the stage. He resented the fact but who wouldn’t if a silly column was to stand between you and the audience on your live debut night. Still, Armand turned out to be a great fit for the band. The core of the band remains intact however so we still have Vicky White on vocals, Harry Rivers on guitar and Gus Hawk on drums.
Bloody Heels focused mostly on the tracks from their latest album Rotten Romance. The show began with the familiar synth intro to “Dream Killers” which segued into the track itself, setting the ball rolling in style this night. “Distant Memory” and “Burning Bridges” followed the opening track closely. My first observations at this stage were as follows. Firstly, I love the experience of seeing Bloody Heels live. Secondly, you’d never think such a small stage would yield so much jumping space to be utilized by Vicky White. Thirdly, “Burning Bridges” is a phenomenal track. While the sound of Bloody Heels is rich with synths and effects, a live setting gives them a sharper guitar-driven edge which is simply great. If you add to that the fact that Vicky White didn’t stand still for even a moment during that show, you have a great rock ‘n’ roll show in the making. As for “Burning Bridges”, the song was somehow lost on me up till this evening. Perhaps because it’s placed toward the end of the album and while I listen to the CD at home, the daily chores stop me from always hearing the album to the very end. It was only while I was listening to the track performed live that I realized that “Burning Bridges” is probably the most straight-ahead rocking track on Rotten Romance with great driving verses.
I must say that I didn’t understand anything of what Vicky White said to the crowd between the songs because it was all in Latvian. I had in fact listened to a few online lessons in Latvian and prepared a few Latvian phrases before the trip but, expectedly, it was only enough to impress a few locals here and there. Back to the show, the sound of the band turned more polished for “Hungry For Your Love”. This track is what had turned me onto Bloody Heels almost a decade ago. It also strikes you how much the band’s sound has evolved over the years. With the title track from Rotten Romance coming next, we were served the catchiest chorus on the album in my opinion. This is a little gem of a chorus that works impeccably live. You simply take off only to land in time for “Velvet”, a totally different live experience. “Velvet” is pure trance-inducing emotions, adorned with atmospheric drumming by Gus Hawk and great guitar work by Harry Rivers. “When The Rain And I Meet” was another atmospheric moment with everybody joining Vicky White in a show of hands waving in the air in the choruses. Did I say that they steamed through an atmospheric cover of Chris Isaac’s “Wicked Game” too?
To close their set, Bloody Heels resorted to three older tracks. The band skipped the bluesy intro to “Cheap Little Liar” and dived straight into the main riff. It was a fantastic tight rendition of a song I’d heard so many times before it almost seemed like the track goes back to the heyday of MTV. Vicky White expelled so much energy it made you sweat. Harry Rivers stepped forward to play the solo and Armand Fox emerged from behind the column a few times. The band switched smoothly to “Ignite The Sky” and “Criminal Masterminds”, the latter of which did the job of closing the show insanely well and had one metalhead headbang frantically in front of the stage for as long as the band played the track.
Granted, Bloody Heels straddle the line now where on one side you have ’80s metal and on the other, there are darker, more modern rock ‘n’ roll moods. But at the end of the day, they give you an impressive rock ‘n’ roll live performance with a strong selection of songs that simply work. I left convinced that Rotten Romance is now my favorite Bloody Heels album.
Bloody Heels’ setlist:
01. Dream Killers
02. Distant Memory
03. Burning Bridges
04. Hungry for Your Love
05. Rotten Romance
07. Wicked Game (Chris Isaak/HIM cover)
08. Crow’s Lullaby
09. When The Rain And I Meet
10. Cheap Little Liar
11. Ignite The Sky
12. Criminal Masterminds
When Wildstreet started installing themselves onstage, there was a glow of eerie blue light and you could see Eric Jayk’s silhouette. With his spiky hair and a somewhat fragile figure, he can’t be mistaken for anyone else. He is instantly recognizable.
While it was a hometown gig for Bloody Heels, for Wildstreet, it was the northernmost stop on a lengthy tour of Europe which had taken them so far, and was still to take them, across several countries. For this affair, Eric was joined by a band of three colorful road gypsies — Kevin R. Scarf (bass, Sweet Leopard), Wrath Starz (guitar, Once Around), and Dylan Graff aka D.D. Star (drums, Zenora). I talked to each of them before the show and they emanated a high dose of enthusiasm. The enthusiasm stemmed from the opportunity to tour Europe with Wildstreet as the offer to join the tour apparently had come out of the blue (Kevin R. Scarf) and from the opportunity to tour Europe for the first time (Dylan Graff). At the same time, Wrath Starz kept his cool chatting with a German tourist who had approached him upon seeing Wildstreet tumble out of their car and look like rock stars.
It’s fair to say that Wildstreet opened their set before a relatively Wildstreet-ignorant crowd. But it’s also fair to say that Wildstreet won them over by the end of the evening. The secret to Wildstreet’s live appeal is quite simple — churn out those sleazy riffs with a lot of conviction and look the part. I really need to give props to the rhythm section who contributed to the show immensely. Kevin R. Scarf posed like there’s no tomorrow while engaging the audience, and Dylan Graff was active behind the drums. It would be a different show without them altogether. Wrath Starz stayed mostly focused on his guitar but the sound he produced was that vintage sleazy sound, that for me at least, just can’t be beat.
A Wildstreet show is of course first and foremost Eric Jayk’s show. Maybe it was an off day however but Eric’s performance was a little bit underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, Eric was every inch himself — he sang while standing and while lying down, he grabbed a guitar to add to that wall of sound every now and then, he did his trademark moves, he looked like a second-generation visitor from the Mad Max universe — but his voice was somewhat off. Nevertheless, even on an off day, Eric is a quality performer and he had an excellent streetwise band to back him up.
The selection of the songs Wildstreet played pleased the fans of their earlier albums as well as those of the most recent effort III. Wildstreet had a few girls dancing in front of the stage toward the end of the set, a testament to the undeniable appeal of the band live which helped win us over, as I said above. I’d really like to see Wildstreet again with Eric in top form but this should not be a problem considering that Eric seems intent on bringing Wildstreet to the European shores. And I’m intent on traveling to see them.
Wildstreet’s setlist (courtesy of Eric Jayk):
01. Shake It
02. Mrs. Sleazy
03. Set It Off
04. Three Way Ride
05. Midnight Gypsy
06. Cocked And Ready
07. Easy Does It
08. Poison Kiss
09. Come Down