Marty Wilde and The Wildcats

Marty Wilde and The Wildcats: The Regent Centre, Christchurch.

It was a very long time ago indeed that a young London rocker called Reg Smith landed his first regular gig playing for a pound a night and a bowl of spaghetti.

Signed up by impresario Larry Parnes and renamed Marty Wilde, he became an overnight sensation and was soon regarded by many as Britain’s answer to Elvis Presley.

Astonishingly, more than 50-years-later, he’s still touring, doing the same songs and striking the same rock ‘n’ roll rebel poses.

On Saturday night Wilde, just a few weeks short of his 71st birthday,  rolled into Christchurch with his longtime backing band The Wildcats. They ripped through a catalogue of hits like Jezebel, Donna and Rubber Ball, delighting a near capacity crowd.

There were also nods to Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Jerry Lee Lewis and of course Elvis.  It’s true Marty does get a bit puffed after a fast number these days and, realising the potential for embarrassment, he wisely delegates the chorus of Teenager in Love to the audience, the majority of whom were of pensionable age. Remarkably though Marty Wilde can still pull it off...Just!  

He dresses the part with drape jacket and huge ‘brothel-creeper’ shoes. The rock ‘n’ roll quiff looks like it might sit on the bed-post at night and there’s quite a lot of make-up. The end result makes Marty look like he’s lumbered out of Madame Tussauds but it’s a good-natured affair and, as the pensioners who leapt (well almost) from their seats to prove they can still jive like it’s 1959, an unashamed wallow in nostalgia. 

This  show may be preaching to the converted but as an evening of entertainment it’s harmless fun and probably does wonders for the sales of essential fish oils. I can’t quite imagine what the teenage Reg Smith would have made of it though.

Jeremy Miles

© Jeremy Miles 2022