An early Christmas present that was well and truly worth the wait.
Tonight’s gig is the rearranged one from October, where Ashcroft at late notice had to cancel both the Manchester concert as well as the London Kentish town one as well, due to ill health.
Having sold out for the original date, and a DJ for the opening support, The Albert Halls was packed to the rafters, virtually as the doors open, two days before Christmas, for many this was an early present. The setting was simple, with just Natural Rebel album cover as the backdrop.
As Ashcroft takes to the stage dark Ray bans reflect the set lighting, as he steps up to the microphone, there’s an air, even a swagger, from the man many of his peers acknowledge as the king of Britpop, the opener is “Hold on”, as lyrically holding as it is melodically engaging. A quick greeting and it’s the unmistakeable chords of “Sonnet”, the first of the Verve big hitters and the crowd are in their element singing along, Christmas has come early.
One thing for certain, Ashcroft seems driven tonight, there’s an ease about his performance, backed by an excellent band, a confidence pouring from someone who is so focused on pleasing the crowd. Next up from his latest album “surprised by the joy”, if ever there was a song written about the problems of todays social media intrusion, this is it.
It’s a real mixture of old and new, Verve and Ashcroft, each and every song is greeted with hero worship, Ashcroft has developed the art of engaging his audience, vocally as strong as I have ever seen him, knowing when to bring things up, when to slow things down, the ringmaster at work.
“Weeping willow” and the anathematic “Lucky man” have the crowd in belting the words out, as “That’s how strong” brings to an end the first part of the set.
Coming back on stage and thanking the crowd for coming out and being a special part of the evening, Ashcroft launches into am acoustic version of “The drugs don’t work” there’s a simplicity yet an intenseness as Ashcroft delivers a flawless performance, as if to reiterate what Ashcroft is about “They don’t own me” is the penultimate number, the last song of the evening was probably a forgone conclusion and like tonight’s rearranged performance worth the wait. “Bitter sweet symphony” closes the show to a crowd that have been entertained by a genius, a maestro of musical talent.
With gigs already lined up for next year, you will do yourself a favour in putting one of them on your New Years to do list.