Ash - Preston Mill - 27.02.04

The Mill is literally jam packed to the rafters. You can hardly move due to the amount of people huddled together in this most intimate of venues. The reason for this fervent excitement is that Ash will be playing in a matter of minutes, previewing new material from their forthcoming album.

The band saunter on stage to the theme from Kill Bill. Tiny Tim Wheeler has the appearance of an unkempt nomad, slightly swarthy but with a chiselled profile and winning smile. Mark Hamilton is close by, tall but quiet, the calm to Tim's tempestuous storm. To be this close to such an established rock combo is a rare experience indeed. The moment Ash kick off with the hit that made them household names, "Girl From Mars" you just know straight away that this is gonna be one gig you'll remember for a long time and boy am I right or what. The title track from their next album "Melt Down" sees Ash getting down and dirty with a vengeance. This is the taste of what's to come, a harder more aggressive sound, uncompromising and direct. This sound would fit neatly in the punk era with a nod to the Sex Pistols and The Stooges with lyrics about heads exploding. "Sunshine In The Morning" is a more conventional song, but a rock n roll spectacular all the same.

"A Life Less Ordinary" is a welcome blast from the past which shows Charlotte giving the lads from Ash a run for their money with her rock star poses and virtuoso guitar playing. The loud and proud "Evil Eye" had a radio friendly chorus while new download single "Clones" is a deliciously dirty grimy track. Tim announces that "Starcrossed" is the most mellow song on the new album, but it's not a patch on their "Candy" single. "Out Of The Blue" is unadulterated ballsy rock, "Renegade Cavalcade" starts off all Elvis Costello before launching into the archetypal killer Ash chorus and ends in a mess of  chaotic chord changes.

By the time the band perform "Envy" Tim looks worn out and his voice is starting to sound a little strained. The last new song of the night is "Vampire Love" which sees the guitars almost being ground down with ferocious stabs. "Dark Side Light Side" and "Petrol" take the crowd up to the climax of "Burn Baby Burn". For such a low key show Ash play solidly for a good ninety minutes and play almost the entirety of their new album which sounds as fresh and diverse as their older, more familiar songs. A larger tour will take place closer to the album's release but it'll have to go some way to eclipse tonight's resounding success.

Nicholas Paul Godkin

Post your Ash reviews / comments on the Message Board