POO“ POP Richard Ashcroft

Richard Ashcroft may have started and ended the night with a Verve song, but it’s his solo tunes which prove the most enchanting.

Ashcroft's material from Alone With Everybody is easily on a par with Urban Hymns, and tonight it’s apparent that watching Richard Ashcroft isn’t the next best thing to having witnessed The Verve, it’s every bit as good.

’Brave New World’ is a lulling warm-hearted classic, while ’A Song For The Lovers’ and ’| Get My Beat’ are so breezy and springy, Ashcroft will need to resist the readies to avoid hearing them on a car commercial. Recent single ’C’mon People’ is perhaps the best thing played all night, with Dickie swaggering with a sense of liberated optimism, and the chorus providing as good a definition of an anthem as any dictionary can.

A decidedly healthier and less gaunt Ashcroft is never out of the spotlight, literally. A white chink of beaming light follows his progress, with his anonymous backing musicians (no cheesy ’introduce the band’ moment here) forever hemmed in the shadows.

Of course, Ashcroft was never going to forget the annuls of history he has been privy to, and there’s little doubt that people want to hear some Verve. 'Space And Time’ and all the Urban Hymns singles are aired, with ’The Drugs Don’t Work' the most resplendent, puncturing horrid memories as the busker’s song of choice.




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It’s telling to see how much indifferent press to Ashcroft’s solo venture has worked him up. With some of the music press willing to condemn his songs because they were written about his wife (obviously not realising how ridiculous this sounds, considering all the artists who have penned love songs), Ashcroft rants his woes, sarcastically shouting ’Don’t believe the fuckin’ hype, after the opener, ’Lucky Man’.

Only the closing ’Bittersweet Symphony' disappoints. With Ashcroft strumming alone on an acoustic guitar, the obvious flaw is that this song just doesn’t work stripped down without the flashy strings. Only at the end does it become the true epic finale it should be; Ashcroft grabs an electric guitar, the sampled strings start up, and the crowd breathe their last. Fitter, happier, more productive; Ashcroft is on form.

(Jason Cranwell)

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