Ash, The Roundhouse, London
Thursday 11 September 2008
Backstage before their show, drummer Rick McMurray is flexing his sticks, bassist Mark Hamilton is stretching his long limbs as if preparing to run the marathon, while front man Tim Wheeler is grinning with his guitar strapped round his neck. Then the casually dressed trio lock arms in a group hug. You wonder how much things have changed for the three members in the 16 years the Northern Irish band have been together.
Ash are the latest band to play a retrospective of their most iconic album – 1977 – in its entirety. From the moment they enter the stage, strobes flickering behind them when they burst into the punk-pop opener with power and precision, the crowd start to go wild. As Wheeler skips around, Hamilton shows us why he was exercising pre-show, emphatically contorting himself as he plays the bass on one knee or lunging on to the monitors.
Wheeler's voice is a bit ropy in places – but nothing's changed there, and it certainly doesn't impinge on the enjoyment of the show. But he does sing with convincing feeling, especially when he leans on the phrase "I'm feeling so alive" in "Goldfinger". While Ash have lost none of their energy and exuberance, nor have their crowd, who, from the mosh pit at the front to the back of the Roundhouse, are bobbing up and down.
The singles "Girl from Mars" and "Oh Yeah" are two of the most anticipated bursts of enjoyable buoyant pop hits of the night, the latter in which Wheeler allows the crowd to sing back alternate lines, and revisit their teenage years. Surfers make their way over the crowd's hands in every song.
But if the crowd already felt a sense of occasion, the unexpected second half of their set proved just how many fans the trio have held on to over the years. The band dig out their rarest songs for the occasion, the boisterous "Sneaker", "Jack Names the Planets", and "Petrol", which best displays their knack for an infectiously catchy power-pop guitar riff with Wheeler's impressive guitar solo. The buoyant Temptations and Abba covers and "Cantina Band" reprisal just add to the fun and prove they can extend their musical dexterity beyond the short punk-pop numbers.
Their hits speak for themselves, and Ash can take their crowd to a certain point in their lives and conjure up nostalgia like few others can.
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