Ash – Life Café - Liverpool (Acoustic Set)
Cast your mind back kids. There was a time when Ash were vital, what with their power-pop melodies and their almost-ironic penchant for metal. They had a number one album and everything you know! Of course, then they released an even better album, but everyone said that was poo, because all of their fans had started growing up and getting real bands to like, ones they could really furrow their brow at. But now they’re back! What do you mean, ‘who are Ash?’
Ash are a rock band. A dumb-ass rock band admittedly, but loud guitars and lots of drums are a necessity. It plays to their strengths (Charlotte’s guitar work) and hides their weaknesses, (Tim’s vocal abilities). But there is nowhere to hide when all there is on stage is Charlotte, Tim and two acoustic guitars. You see, because they have opted for acoustic gigs – mainly just elaborate promos for their new single ‘Shining Light’, released, perhaps unsurprisingly, next week. It’s also the opener for the set, albeit cut short by snapping strings, as is stand-in song ‘Girl From Mars’. Things begin to seem just a little farcical. The assembled are mostly either industry people or competition winners, and there’s only about two Ash T-shirts in the place. Ash are bored and the audience are indifferent. You kind of wonder if any of these people have heard any of their songs in their lives.
But what about the songs – they are nice enough, but then they always have been. With a safe, unremarkable ‘Goldfinger’ they fail to inspire, the couple of new songs sound like typical Ash melodies, but there’s a tiredness to events that seems to infiltrate the air. The cover songs are unsurprisingly the best songs of the evening. Ween’s ‘What Deaner Was Talking About’ is pleasant uplifting pop, and a previous Ash b-side, and there is a breezy Shack cover that just about gets a bit of circulation going. Although it appears slightly contrived to cover Shack in Liverpool – its like covering Oasis in Manchester – and smacks of brown-nosing in the absence of real quality. However, as technical problems become smoothed out, the pair’s confidence grows, and they showed the sublime beauty they can conjure with a double-guitar-picking version of ‘Folk Song’ from Nu-Clear Sounds. A bewildering ‘Question and Answer’ session hosted by the radio station who gave away all the tickets to the 200 ‘fans’ here tonight and a rousing and this time complete version of ‘Girl From Mars’ (when the crowd finally realised which band they were watching) complete the show. And just like before the gig, everyone again realises that they don’t really care that much anymore. They’ve all grown up.