Ash / The Crimea / The Seers  - Manchester Academy 1 - 5.6.04

Just a few hours before Ash are due to hit the stage a group of teenage boys walk over to a tout and ask how much it's for a ticket. £45 is the response. The group shuffle off disappointed, minds ticking over as to just where they can lay their hands on that sort of money. Two hours later the same group are seen down in the pit, hair glued to their heads with sweat. Ash are the sort of band you'll beg and steal for and still long after the Britpop bubble burst they are still relevant as ever. "Free All Angels" went to number 1, the greatest hits went platinum and new album "Meltdown" sees them adding classic rock riffs to the sugar-coated Wheeler songbook.

The news that Saves The Day have had to fly back to the States for a wedding leaves many fans disappointed and crying real "emo" tears, something that was never going to be stopped by news that Bonehead's new band The Seers were taking their place. If there's one thing an ex-member of Oasis doesn't want to do it's sound like a 3rd rate Oasis and have a bass player and drummer that look exactly like George and Ringo, but pleasant and inoffensive as it is that's exactly what The Seers do. Hints of "Champagne Supernova" on one song, a lyric of "live forever" on another and so on. The reference points are unmistakable and while the guys are affable enough, musically it's never going to set the world on fire.

Likewise The Crimea are shadows of their former band, The Crocketts. Once upon a time frontman Davey "Crockett" McManus used to be known for not being able to go on stage without about 7 E's, nowadays he may shake his tits off, but it's to the soundtrack of a semi-acoustic dirge. Still if they can write more songs like the classic "Girl Just Died" then they're onto a winner, but amongst the lyrical genius of McManus there needs to be a few choruses, a few hooks and something to leave a lasting memory of the band.

For me the Ash gig started 4 hours earlier in the soundcheck when they ran through a classic version of Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back In Town". Such a standard, but with Tim and Charlotte duelling on the guitars in a way that could out rock the Darkness it's a sight to behold and it's a crime they don't open with it tonight. Still a beefed up version of "Meltdown" more than satisfies, it's almost as if Ash have been at the spinach again and rather than lightweight indie Ash, the rock beasts have finally been unleashed onto the world. "Girls From Mars" makes an early entrance and it's surprising how fresh it still sounds after all these years in comparison to some of the records released at the time, but that's down to Wheeler's timeless songwriting which still even in "rock beast" mode uses the same set pieces, the same moves and chord sequences but manages to sound fresh every time. "Orpheus" could have been off any Ash album, yet only a few months old it still seems as much a part of the Ash set as old classics "Life Less Ordinary", "Goldfinger" and "Sometimes" did earlier in the set.

Coming back for the encore with "Petrol", "On A Wave" and "Burn Baby Burn" it's a 3 song blast of why we love Ash. We've been here a dozen times before at the end of Ash gigs and still we're coming back for more of the same - just simply great songs rehashed, rewritten and churned out with ease for each album. On paper it sounds as if we're being cheated, but unlike Oasis who have been playing the same card for years and boring us silly, Tim Wheeler manages to turn the familiar into something we can learn to love again in a slightly different way. Is it just me or do you get the feeling we'll all be here at Ash gigs for another 10 years singing along to "Girl From Mars" and "Jack Names The Planets"? If they can play gigs like this each night you bet your bottom dollar we will be

Alex McCann
Photo's by Karen McBride -

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