Alternative music reviews


Manchester Apollo 8 May 2003

Usually, in music, freedom means twenty-minute guitar solos interjected with African Orchestras big enough to be Primal Scream’s drug roadies. Tonight it’s the gig that’s free, Irish pop-rock veterans (at 25 Tim Wheeler’s career has already spanned over a decade) Ash line up alongside the fiery Hot Hot Heat and the acclaimed Rain Band. The latter’s blend of Rob Harvey meets Ian Brown reworking early-Verve trip rock is typically Mancunian but also typically enthralling.

After a short stint of Mark’n’Lard interpreted Carling advertising Hot Hot Heat bound on to the stage all Keegan curls and ridiculously tight jeans. Vocalist Steve Bays struts around cutting shapes sharp enough to slit the throat of any Radio One censor. Keyboards twinkle under Steve’s compelling singsong voice whilst at his side guitarist Dante creates punk with a quiff to rival Elvis. ‘Get In or Get Out’ and ‘5 times out of 100’ blister by but the Heat are still simmering. The controversial ‘Bandages’ however, proves the boiling beauty. “Bandages, Bandages, Bandages!” – this band doesn’t need any where they’re going.

And, in a ridiculously long and drawn out flash they’re here. Recording, touring and hauntings clearly haven’t dulled Ash who take the stage as world-dominating heroes. ‘Girl From Mars’ is springy (Charlotte bounces Busted style, momentarily losing her cool Chrissie Hynde exterior) and yet slow and mournful in the middle as if Tim has stopped that bit longer to muse on those heavenly tentacles. Next is ‘Orpheus’ a new and somewhat darker Ash track but free of their much-heralded new ‘electronic-direction’. ‘Shining Light and further newie ‘Renegade Cavalcade’ pass with further brilliance but it is the pairing of ‘Oh Yeah’ and ‘Evil Eye’ which cause unashamed terrace chanting. The former is a classic and a plaintive cry for better times (they don’t get much better than this!) whilst the latter shows Wheeler revelling in his own glorious knack of writing sparkle-pop.

‘Kung Fu’, ‘Envy’ and world exclusive ‘On A Wave’ pass similarly adored but where better to end the night than with the infant-arson of ‘Burn Baby Burn’ a bonafide classic to rival any of Pete Waterman’s sleek pop. In short, Ash rock, and without even a hint of orchestral free jazz.

Review and photos by Alex Lawson

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