On a cold Sunday just before spring, the indie/rock band from Northern Ireland, Ash, has the Chicago date of their U.S. tour at the Lincoln Hall. You can check out our review, after the break.
From total darkness, a recording of a space shuttle launch sequence began. With the narrator giving launch approval, the sound of a shuttle takeoff boomed through the speakers as Ash triumphantly returned to the stage in Chicago after a nearly 8 year hiatus. Ash are a unique kind of band, that has always worn their influences proudly. Early albums show their punk influences, middle albums some of their metal preferences, and later albums show more experimentation. They were able to show off much their unique melding of influences through a set that featured songs from 6 of their 7 albums, a song from a sound track and 2 covers.
The band took the stage at Lincoln Hall and immediately tore in to Meltdown and Orpheus. With his Flying V, lead singer Tim Wheeler ripped through the solos with ferocity. While pausing briefly to acknowledge the crowd between songs, Wheeler said, “It’s great to be in Chicago, sorry it’s been so long. But happy St. Patrick’s Day!” This was met with loud cheers from the fans that braved the unseasonably cold weather for the show.
Building off of the applause, the band tore in to A Life Less Ordinary, a deep cut on the soundtrack to the very forgettable movie of the same name. With a slick solo on the record, Wheeler dirties it up and takes it a step further in concert. It is definitely one of their best live songs. The follow up, Goldfinger, the lead single from their breakthrough album 1977, is also a live highlight. This pairing really got the crowd fired up and in to the show.
The beautiful Walking Barefoot started with just Wheeler strumming his guitar and singing. The crowd was singing along with him, and then drummer Rick McMurray and bassist Mark Hamilton joined in to kick the song up a notch.
Joy Kicks Darkness, from the innovative A to Z series calmed the crowd back down a bit. The A to Z series was a collection of songs where singles were recorded every 2 weeks over the course over the year and released in 2 volumes. Due to this, some of the fans were unfamiliar with the songs from this period.
Next, Wheeler explained that the band were from Downpatrick, Ireland, where St. Patrick is buried. He said that they were going to play their most Irish sounding song, and they kicked in to Uncle Pat, from their mini-album trailer. The song is incredibly well written, especially considering that the band were all around 15 years old when the song was completed.
The band also grouped together a bunch of their hits including Kung Fu, Shining Light, Oh Yeah and Jack Names the Planets. They range from a beautiful ballad (Shining Light) to a song that clearly shows the early punk influence on the band (Jack Names the Planets).
Girl From Mars got more people dancing, jumping and playing air guitar than any other song played.
The final song of the set, Return of White Rabbit, from the A to Z series, is one of the best and catchiest songs Ash has written to date, and it is a shame it is not more well known. Like many of their other songs, it is taken up a notch live. With a slinky bass line and catchy beat, it would not sound out of place on a New Order album. The heavy reverb on the vocals and guitar swirls add to the atmosphere of the song. The band briefly left the stage to loud applause for a much deserved break after playing 16 songs in just a little over an hour.
After coming back onstage, Wheeler said that since it was St. Patrick’s Day they were going to play a couple covers. It turns out the couple covers were two of the most famous songs by Irish bands. First up was Teenage Kicks by Undertones, who were a huge influence on Ash. Next was Whiskey In The Jar, a traditional Irish song, made famous by Thin Lizzy. It was introduced by Wheeler as his favorite band of all time. Listening to bands describe who or what has influenced them is always fascinating, and provides a great opportunity to connect with the band and possibly discover something new.
The final song of the night was Burn Baby Burn. With a great riff, pounding drums, catchy bass and beautiful lyrics, it perfectly encapsulates the Ash experience. It was among their biggest US hits and was a great way to end the show. The band left the stage to loud cheers, while promising to not take 8 years to come back to Chicago. Hopefully it is a promise that they will keep.
Information about the review…
Tour: Ash’s 2013 Spring U.S. Tour
Bands: Ash, California Wives
Date: March 17, 2013
Venue: Lincoln Hall in Chicago, IL