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Whippet Out – Ash, Glasgow ABC

Howlin’ Whippet gets out and about for some pop/rock classicism from Norn Ireland’s finest…

I read a review of the recent Ash Best Of.. compilation where the reviewer asked “Ash. Where did it all go wrong?”.

I can kinda see his point but at the same time, this is a band who have have shifted upwards of 10 million albums in their time, have been the only group to have a song (‘Clones’) on a Star Wars movie and have had dozens of chart singles.

I think the reviewer was hinting at the fact that Ash seemed to be on the cusp of mega-band status a few times but never quite made the step to arena fillers.

It’s ten years since Free All Angels, their forth and most loved album. Personally I prefer the peerless Meltdown but what do I know.

The first part of the set is FAA in order and its entirety. As with most albums these days, it’s top loaded with three stompers, namely Walking Barefoot, Shining Light and Burn Baby Burn. The sound (as is usual at the ABC) is pretty murky till about the 3rd tune. No matter, the crowd are loving it.

Charlotte Hatherley has now returned to Ash on guitar and backing vocals. She adds a much needed dimension to the FAA songs and seems to have foregone her previous statue-esque stage presence in favour of a bit of rocking out with Tim Wheeler. She also wears a pair of PVC shorts VERY well indeed.

The aforementioned Wheeler is a fantastic songwriter and whizz-kid guitarist. Unfortunately he lacks the charisma that would lift Ash above the occasional ordinariness of their performance. Herein, probably, lies the problem. To lift a group to the U2 heights of stardom, a frontman with some arrogance and ego is sometimes required. That’s not Wheeler’s style, and frankly I’d rather he didn’t act the superstar. One Bono in the world is one too many.

‘Candy’ gets the full sampled orchestra treatment, and falls a bit flat in the live setting. Wheeler puts his guitar down to sing and he looks rather lost ambling around the stage.

Fortunately ‘Cherry Bomb’ and ‘Shark’ arrive soon to up the ante and we’re back in full Ash rockin’ mode.

After a quick break, they return with a greatest hits (and misses) set including the magnificent ‘Starcrossed’ and ‘A Life Less Ordinary’ which Wheeler claims as his favourite Ash moment.

My favourite is Orpheus, which is given the full strobe lights, flanger pedal and jungle drums treatment with the crowd doing the “I’m heading for the open road” responses.

They can only finish with ‘Girl From Mars’ which sees Wheeler thank crowd members who’ve travelled from Japan and New Zealand.

Now, that’s being a fan.

The encore of course, is ‘Kung Fu’ and finishes with Ash standing arms around each other at the front of the stage. Clearly any animosity regarding Hatherley’s departure and subsequent return has been forgotten.

Ash. Where did it all go right?

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One Response

  1. I forgot how many great singles they had. Apart from those mentioned (and I loved ‘A Life Less….’) I’ll always treasure ‘Petrol’ and ‘Sometimes’.

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