Manchester, United Kingdom
Part of the “Higher Education” UK tour. Supported by the V Formation. “Suicide Girls” was an early title for “Palace of Excess” while “In Hell” was a working title for “Twilight of the Innocents”.
- Lose Control
- Burn Baby Burn
- Jesus Says
- You Can’t Have It All
- Palace of Excess
- Renegade Cavalcade
- Walking Barefoot
- A Life Less Ordinary
- Oh Yeah
- Girl From Mars
- Twilight of the Innocents
Three years on from the lukewarm response to the band’s last album and following the departure of guitarist Charlotte Hatherley, Ash are back as a three-piece with new songs and, thankfully, a new fire.
Despite being one of the biggest Brit-rock bands of the nineties, the Ash of late didn’t quite seem to be functioning on all cylinders. Sure, they had the extra power and glamour that came with the addition of second guitarist Hatherley and the Stateside sound of the band’s last album ‘Meltdown’ drew from the same raw materials that make the Foo Fighters such an appealing prospect, but still something was missing.
Fast-forward to 2007’s pair of tiny Manchester Academy 3 dates and the band that first hit the headlines before they’d even left school are back as a three-piece. Collectively older and wiser, frontman Tim Wheeler looks to have barely aged and still bounds around the stage like a teenager.
To his right, bass player Mark Hamilton still towers over him and drummer Rick McMurray still drums with the look in his eye of a man who, were he not behind the kit, would probably be out on a killing spree armed only with a pair of drumsticks and a manic stare.
And best of all Ash still sound great. With a set list designed specifically to remind audiences just how many amazing songs they have, the band are now following their 90s peers Supergrass into the ‘I didn’t realisethey had that many tunes’ bracket. But first the new material: Ash may have lured the 400 sweating bodies to the Academy with the promise of ‘Girl From Mars’ but they want them to stay for the band’s forthcoming, currently-untitled album.
So we get come-back single ‘You Can’t Have It All’ and ‘I Started a Fire’ (the band are giving it away free here - go now!) which bristle with Ash’s trademark pop-punk energy, and upbeat rocker ‘Suicide Girls’, but more interesting is set closer ‘In Hell’ which finds Wheeler screaming like Pixies frontman Frank Black over sheets of distortion and marks something of a departure from the band’s standard template.
But as promising as the new tracks are it’s the classics which really show off just how good Ash are, and how, in the main, they’re coping sonically as a three piece. ‘Burn Baby Burn’ and ‘Orpheus’ shine, ‘A Life Less Ordinary’ rolls along at pace, while ‘Jesus Says’, ‘Walking Barefoot’, ‘Goldfinger’, ‘Oh Yeah’, ‘Girl From Mars’ and a final explosive ‘Kung Fu’ hammer home how strong the band’s back catalogue is.
Played to perfection, the future of Ash now lies in the recordings of their next album. An interesting prospect that will show whether Wheeler and co can bounce-back into the nation’s hearts.
I Started a Fire? Actually it never went out, it just needs that little extra bit of Petrol to get the flames roaring again
Jon Ford for XFM Manchester
CAPABLE of selling out the Apollo - Ash, fresh from recording their sixth studio album Stateside hit the road - opting to downsize to a modest touring circuit for the first of two nights in Manchester.
Playing to a (no surprise) sold out Academy 3, Loose Control opens tonight’s show, its raw riffing is a scruff of the neck shakedown, full of perfect impact and sees bassist Mark Hamilton cramming in every rock posture, strut and pose with his low slung Firebird before the first chorus even completes.
Without much time to pause, Burn Baby Burn is met with a 400-strong roar of approval - Wheeler, who provides ample chance for the audience to join in - shows just what festival gigging makes of a band - in creating a welcome sense of interaction from the audience without detracting from delivery, intent or lyrical structure.
Forthcoming single You Can’t Have It All and new material I Started a Fire and Suicide Girls have a cantering pop quality about them - confirming Ash’s direction to be much of the same: following their proven blueprint for rock-indie pop and keeping in a territory they know and can execute well.
Walking Barefoot, Polaris and A Life Less Ordinary are rich and energised - further enhanced by an excellent mix and a lavish, high spec lighting rig - adding that extra percent to what has become an already perfect gig.
Both Wheeler and Hamilton seem content with the intimacy and reception the venue affords.
In between song chants from the Academy of ‘Ash Wednesday… Ash Wednesday’ causes Wheeler some amusement. And despite a steady line of crowd surfers finding their way over the monitors andonto the stage, Wheeler seems non deterred - his nifty footwork ensures vocal presence is maintained throughout - never dropping a line away from the mic or interrupting the job in hand.
With a few crowd pleasers missing - rested off to make way for newer material (Shining Light, Angel Interceptor, Sometimes) the set still maintains good energy and does not feel undercooked in any part, laboured nor dull.
Encore Petrol sounds beefier than ever. Vampire Love leads into tonight’s superb closer Kung Fu - ensuring a final rush of last minute crowd surfers make it onstage to join Ash before the evening closes.
With You Can’t Have It All due for release in April and a large gigging festival calendar needing filling - undoubtedly Ash will return to 60,000 top billing slots, but for those present for tonight’s intimate gig, Manchester’s Ash Wednesday has been one to remember.
From Manchester Evening News