REVIEW: Ash, Riverside, Newcastle

Tim Wheeler of Ash in action at the Riverside in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford
Tim Wheeler of Ash in action at the Riverside in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford
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After an eight-year gap between albums, Ash returned in the summer with Kablammo!, their sixth studio offering of their 23-year career.

It received their best reviews in a decade, and served notice that they are still very much a going concern, not a band trading on past glories.

Tim Wheeler of Ash in action at the Riverside in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford

Tim Wheeler of Ash in action at the Riverside in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford

This gig was part of a tour to promote the latest record, and it's very much to frontman Tim Wheeler's credit that it wasn't cancelled.

He was suffering from what he called "a stinking cold", and by his own admission things were "mixed up a bit" to play songs which wouldn't wreck his voice completely.

In London two nights earlier, he received a helping hand from ex-second guitarist Charlotte Hatherley, who left nine years ago, as the band reverted to their original three-man line-up.

Her extra guitar work and harmonising would have been useful tonight, but Wheeler soldiered on through an hour-long main set and a three-song encore.

Tim Wheeler of Ash in action at the Riverside in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford

Tim Wheeler of Ash in action at the Riverside in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford

He showed his prowess as a guitarist with his trademark Gibson Flying V against a rock-solid backdrop laid down by bassist Mark Hamilton and drummer Rick McMurray.

Although the tour was to promote Kablammo!, the setlist was very old-school Ash, with plenty of fans' favourites included early in the set.

They included A Life Less Ordinary and Jack Names The Planets, both well-received by a crowd which had swollen considerably in size since enjoyable support act Asylums.

The first new material they wheeled out was Free, one of the slower songs from Kablammo!, and it was a contender for song of the night.

Tim Wheeler of Ash in action at the Riverside in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford

Tim Wheeler of Ash in action at the Riverside in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford

Other new songs to receive an airing included the excellent Cocoon, the Muse-like instrumental Evel Knievel, which gave Wheeler's sore throat a much-needed rest, and Machinery.

There was nothing from 2004's Meltdown (more's the pity), or 2007's Twilight Of The Innocents, or, surprisingly, from the A-Z Series of singles, which seems to have been consigned to a footnote in the band's history.

It was the old songs which, as ever, got the lively Saturday night crowd singing and dancing, however - even if one over-zealous bouncer at the front tried to stop them.

"Are you telling them off for jumping up and down?" scolded Wheeler, halting Kung Fu in full flight. "Leave them, they're having fun - that's what happens at an Ash show."

Tim Wheeler of Ash in action at the Riverside in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford

Tim Wheeler of Ash in action at the Riverside in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford

A cover of The Undertones' classic Teenage Kicks produced a similarly lively reaction, as did Goldfinger, Angel Interceptor and Oh Yeah, which produced the night's biggest singalong.

The set ended with the double punch of Shining Light and Girl From Mars, and despite Wheeler's vocal troubles, there was no way they weren't going to do an encore.

They duly returned to play Walking Barefoot, Wild Surf and the closing Burn Baby Burn, which earned them the ovation they deserved.

Ash bassist Mark Hamilton gets down at the Riverside. Pi: Gary Welford

Ash bassist Mark Hamilton gets down at the Riverside. Pi: Gary Welford

Drummer Rick McMurray pounds out the beat for Ash at the Riverside. Pic: Gary Welford

Drummer Rick McMurray pounds out the beat for Ash at the Riverside. Pic: Gary Welford

Ash in action at the Riverside in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford

Ash in action at the Riverside in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford