HAVING never visited this venue before I expected, given it’s name, it to be below 89 Friar Street. Wrong! It’s above it. Oh well, no matter.
I’ve never been to an Ash gig before either, although I’ve seen them countless times over the years at this town’s rather popular music festival which you may have heard of; I also saw them when they were main support for fellow Irishmen U2 at Twickenham in 2005 (they’ve been friends for years and played some huge gigs to promote the, eventually successful, Irish peace talks in 1998).
Formed when they were in their mid-teens in 1992, for the last five years the band have been back to their original three-piece line up (since the departure of guitarist Charlotte Hatherly who was a permanent member from 1997 to 2006) of Tim Wheeler, vocals and guitar, Mark Hamilton, bass and, sporting a resplendent Movember effort, Rick McMurray, drums.
The set mainly consisted of tracks recorded without Ms H, so tracks from 1994’s debut mini album Trailer and 1996’s UK number one first album proper 1977, along with some of the 26 (yes, 26!!) singles released over the last year or so (part of their A-Z Series, released fortnightly).
Opening inevitably and pleasingly with Lose Control, track one on 1977, the band then launched into a set guaranteed to keep the near-600 capacity crowd happy. Second up was Girl From Mars so two tracks in and the place was rocking full tilt. We were then treated to a further hour-and-a-half of classics such as Trailer’s Jack Names The Planets, Oh Yeah, the manic Kung Fu, Goldfinger, Orpheus, A Life Less Ordinary (great track, poor film) and the wife’s personal favourite, Shining Light. Mixed in with newer material, of which I have to confess I am not familiar, but enjoyed nonetheless, including Arcadia, a rather (believe it or not) funky Return Of The White Rabbit and Dionysian Urge.
They returned to treat the fans with a four-track encore of last studio album title track Twilight Of The Innocents, Sometimes, another from Trailer, Uncle Pat, and finally again both predictably and correctly, the poptastic classic Burn Baby Burn.
You know a great singles band if after all of this, on the way home you have a “hang on they didn’t play......” moment- and for me that was Angel Interceptor.
So, now in their mid-30s, Ash have still got it and probably will never lose it. “It” being the ability to rock a crowd with the kind of cracking power pop from a catalogue, spanning over half their lifetime, that many current would-be contemporaries can only dream of.
I’ve no doubt that I’ll see you again at a festival soon, guys!
- First published in the Newbury Weekly News on Thursday, December 8, 2011