Ash and V//Formation
Academy 3, Manchester
Thursday February 22nd, 2007
If you’re one of the people who thought that Ash would suffer without Charlotte Hatherley, then you were most likely proven wrong if you were at Academy 3 tonight. Naturally, it’d be foolish to underestimate Hatherley’s contribution over nearly a decade, but tonight’s performance shows that there’s still a great deal more to come from Tim, Mark and Rick.
Support act V//Formation, who also originally hail from Northern Ireland, warm up the crowd well. Whilst one or two in the crowd saw fit to compare them to The Rakes - probably as a result of their energetic, insistent drum hooks - it’s fair to say that their upbeat, polished brand of pop-rock owed a lot to tonight’s headliners.
As Tim Wheeler bounds onto the stage with a casual remark to a receptive crowd about yesterday being Ash Wednesday and today being Ash Thursday, he, and the rest of the band look to have barely aged since the days of 1977. Tonight, in the confines of Academy 3, it’s their acclaimed back catalogue that sounds the best. Burn Baby Burn fills the room, sounding as fresh as it did six years ago. Orpheus is the same frenzied, delightful torrent of noise it was on Meltdown, even without a second guitarist. Everyone sings along to Girl From Mars, a brilliant rendition of early hit Goldfinger, and the gorgeous and vastly underrated Walking Barefoot.
It’s also the first time the band have been able to debut new songs. Like most of Ash’s material, they seem to be considerably varied. The advantage to listeners is that the breadth of their material shows their obvious songwriting skill, and a willingness to embrace a number of genres. However, it also means that you may not enjoy all of the new songs. If you love the upbeat Roulette (surely a shoo-in for an early single release?), then you may not be as keen on the more introspective, yet equally good In Hell. From an objective point of view, there’s some good material which needs a little bit of work to get it up to the same high standard as the band’s back catalogue, and, encouragingly, the new material shows no huge drop in quality or dramatic change in direction.
On the whole, the mood in Academy 3 tonight is no less than euphoric. Everyone in the room seems delighted to hear a band on such fine form. During the encore, one of the many crowd-surfers even manages to ruffle the hair of a rather surprised Tim before being unceremoniously usurped from the stage. All that remains now is to wait impatiently for the new album, due out later this year.
words: Kate Goodacre
Ash will be playing The Late Room in Manchester later this month as part of XFM Manchester's first birthday celebrations. Visit www.xfmmanchester.co.uk for more information on how to be there. The first single from the band's new album, You Can't Have It All, is provisionaly scheduled for release on April 26th, 2007, with the album to follow this summer.