Northern Ireland’s Ash have been plying their buzz-saw pop smarts since their emergence as three fresh faced teens back in 1992, at the dawn of the rise of alternative music into a more mainstream consciousness. With their original three piece line up still impressively intact (they also existed for a time with a fourth member, Charlotte Hatherley), tonight sees the band commence their latest Australian tour, in support of most recent album ‘Islands’, with nary a faltering step, despite the reality of having just stepped off a long haul flight.
The band take a few tracks to find their range, with fan fave ‘Kung Fu’ appearing two songs in while their sound is still crystallizing, leaving one to wish that it had been held back for a bit longer. It doesn’t take long for the real-deal Ash to emerge though, with the rousing ‘Annabel’, one of a number of tracks from ‘Islands’ to receive an airing tonight, slotting seamlessly into a set list also heavy with ‘greatest hits’ nostalgia – a rapturous promised land for the true disciples that constitute a large part of tonight’s solid and enthusiastic audience.
A different Ash reveal themselves in the form of another standout ‘Islands’ number, ‘Confessions In The Pool’, delivering a sleek pop sheen to go with it’s typically Ash’esque jaunty guitar bounce.
Catchy and anthemic moments abound and in this regard the band utterly excel, as they bust out prime cuts from the era of their classic, ‘1977’ album to the buzzed throng. ‘A Life Less Ordinary’, ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘Oh Yeah’ making for three of the most uplifting and incendiary moments of their set, the latter drawing a rousing crowd singalong as it fades out in glorious rapture.
Front man and guitarist Tim Wheeler, with his dapper Movember moustache and sensible Hawaiian shirt giving him a slightly less ever-youthful veneer, gleefully takes the opportunity to launch into rock-god mode on the bands more rambunctious numbers, his chops and moves proving particularly riveting during fist pumping, hard rocking moments such as ‘Orpheus’ and ‘Numbskull’
A few unexpected gems turn up in the latter half of the band’s set, in the form of ‘Cantina Band’ (the John Williams conducted music that plays during the ‘cantina scene’ in Star Wars) and the late breaking, fan requested inclusion of ‘Uncle Pat’, an indie powered delight from the band’s early-early days.
During the latter stages the band stretch themselves ever higher, with newer number, ‘Buzzkill’, yet further evidence that Ash are still very much as relevant as their glory days of yore. And the much loved ‘Girl From Mars’ receives the rabid reception it deserves, it’s crunchy, melodic smarts drawing blissful sing-alongs and exuberant dancing in equal measure.
The band depart in an amped-up blaze with the rousing ‘Burn Baby Burn’, before the baying crowd coax them back out for one last hurrah, with 1977 opening number ‘Lose Control’ leaving all in the room with broad grins and satiated hearts. A powerhouse performance from a band still clearly in love with rock and roll some 26 years into their journey.