Review | Ash at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea: ‘A 20-song Proustian rush’

Ash’s debut album, 1977, came out in 1996, the same week as my 19th birthday (do the maths, as our American friends say), and I was bought it as a present.

Saturday, 25th September 2021, 11:46 am
Ash at The Wedgewood Rooms on their Teenage Wildlife tour, September 2021. Picture by Paul Windsor

The band have gone on to provide the soundtrack to my adult life, so to find that the latest tour is celebrating their 25th anniversary (+1 thanks to the pandemic delays and rescheduling) is a sobering reminder of the passage of time.

When they open with Goldfinger – one of 1977’s singles – there’s a Proustian rush that barely lets up for the duration of the 20 song set.

Originally intended to be at the since-closed Pyramids Centre last March, the three-piece are now playing back-to-back sold out nights at The Wedge instead.

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Drawing at least one song from every album of their career, plus their title song to the Ewan McGregor/Cameron Diaz starring A Life Less Ordinary, and Arcadia from the A-Z series (26 singles released over the course of a year), there’s something for everyone.

Dubbed Teenage Wildlife, the tour is named in tribute to their youthful origins, and the trio have always had a knack of blending deceptively simple tales of love, love lost and that perfect summer with, pop-punk earworms.

Or, as with one of their heavier numbers, like tonight’s Orpheus, they can kick like a mule.

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Wildsurf from the unfairly maligned (for not being 1977: Part 2) second album Nu-Clear Sounds gets a welcome outing.

If there’s a slight dip, it’s when they play Darkest Hour of The Night – the obligatory new track from their recent ‘Best of’. Its only flaw is the lack of familiarity compared to the other material.

Frontman Tim Wheeler, bassist Mark Hamilton and drummer Rick McMurray just look happy to be here and playing live again.

The main set closes with a spiky Buzzkill – one of the angrier songs in their canon, but the audience was never going to let them off without encores.

They return with a fun romp through The Only Ones’ Another Girl, Another Planet. It’s such an obvious choice of cover for this sci-fi obsessed band, you can’t believe they’ve never done it before this tour.

And then to run it straight into their own Girl From Mars? Sublime. Or as sublime as six solid minutes of jumping around can be.

While the band’s teenage years are well behind them – as they are for the vast majority of the audience – for the duration of their set, Tim, Mark and Rick take us right back there.

There’s a curious postscript to the gig too – after the band leave the stage, Bill Medley and Jennifer Warne’s I’ve Had The Time of My Life comes over the PA.

With many of the audience stopping to sing along, Rick and Mark jump back on stage to join in a capella.

It’s a sweet moment and a fitting end to this mutual love-in.

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