Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Live Review :: Richard Ashcroft :: Roundhouse, London - May 16 2016
May 16 2016
Words/Photos: Kenny Davies
It's been about six years since Richard Ashcroft last graced a stage in London, but tonight he's back - and back on top form.
Huge cheers go up as he walks onto the stage, gas mask slung around his neck, and from the body language - arms outspread, followed by chest pumps with his fist - the signs are it's going to be a night to remember. First off is a nice easy opener, 'Out Of My Body', which has the crowd singing already and warms them up nicely for the rest of the 15- song set ahead.
'This Is How It Feels' is a new song from the forthcoming album 'These People', and live it already has the feel of a classic Ashcroft track: big on melodies and a hook/chorus that reels people in and makes them throw their arms in the air and sing along. He may have a new album on the way, but it's the songs people grew up with and know and love as dearly as a favourite pair of shoes, that they really want to hear. The next two songs, therefore, don't disappoint at all.
'Science Of Silence' and old Verve favourite 'Sonnet' are welcomed with huge appreciative cheers, with the former including an extended outro jam as Ashcroft prowls the stage shouting and pumping his chest like a call to arms. 'Sonnet' does what it does best: mass sing alongs, arms in the air stone cold classic. There are not many artists who can just strum an acoustic guitar and instantly feel the love from the crowd and have every word sung back to you.
During 'Break The Night With Colour', I think it's the first time I've ever seen sunglasses used as a guitar slide, during the frenzy at end of the song he drops to his knees takes his sunglasses off and uses them as an impromptu slide. Mad Richard is back.
We are then treated to another Ashcroft solo song
'New York', slow at first but it builds and builds to the screams of "New York, New York" where it thereupon bursts into a full blown jam that harks back to the days of the early Verve catalogue, with a typical Ashcroft stance, low down, bent knees urging the crowd on. New addition to his setlist, but another old favourite, 'Lucky Man' receives the loudest cheers so far; every word here is sung out loud and clear by the crowd, many with their eyes shut just letting the music take them on a journey as if nothing else mattered in the world.
Ashcroft then leaves the stage for a while, and when he returns it is just him and an acoustic guitar for 'The Drugs Don't Work' and 'A Song For The Lovers', both classic Ashcroft singalong tunes that show just how good a songwriter the man is, and how he can still connect with his fans. It wouldn't matter if he was playing to 10,000 people in an arena or 100 in the local pub, his passion and energy feeds into the crowd with the emotional rendition of 'Drugs'. The song isn't played live much, but when it is it feels pretty special, as it does tonight.
He dedicates the next song, an UNKLE cover 'Lonely Soul', to DJ Shadow and James Lavelle, and this brings the tempo right down with its almost trip hop beat and mantra-like chants. As the set draws to a close, the last song of the night can only really be one: 'Bitter Sweet Symphony'. Ashcroft could just play the guitar and have the sold out Roundhouse crowd sing every word back to him but in true Ashcroft fashion he puts every ounce of his soul into the song, singing it like it's the last night on earth. Tonight's crowd have waited along time to hear this again, so with arms aloft, fists clenched pumping the air saviour every moment, sing every word because they're not sure if and when one of our generation's last great rock 'n' roll stars will be back. Hopefully the wait won't be too long.