It's not often that a band as popular as Ash announces a small venue tour, so we grabbed our tickets as quickly as we could, finding "sold out" signs for the Oxford and Portsmouth gigs, but a few left at TJs. Despite this being an enduring rock venue just over the bridge into Wales, I'd never been to TJs before! This was also a first gig for our new car, so there's a couple of firsts! Parked up in a side street after getting confused about the closing times for the NCP opposite, and joined the freezing but fast-moving queue outside this inevitably sold-out show. TJs is a seriously run-down dive, with badly-framed pix of former headliners on the walls. A real rock'n'roll venue!
We were dismayed to discover Oxford noiseniks Winnebago Deal were support; however despite the volume still being loud (albeit considerably reduced from our previous ear-splitting experience), they were much more palatable. Kind of "Beaster" era Sugar meets Black Sabbath. A quantum improvement from last time!
We took up a reasonable viewing position stage-left in this heaving little venue for Ash, promptly on at 9.30. They wandered onstage to no fanfare or entrance music, plugged in, went straight into "Girl From Mars" and the place went nuts.
The primary reason for this small venue tour is for Ash to shake down the tracks from forthcoming new CD "Meltdown" in a live environment, and this they did, playing all of them! However, they never took the piss, and delivered a perfectly planned set, with every couple of new numbers being followed with a live favourite, such as the early and brilliantly strident "A Life Less Ordinary", or the Ramones-like surf punk of "Walking Barefoot". And as for the new numbers; despite rumours of metal overload, I'm pleased to report them new apples didn't fall far from the Ash tree. Harder edged, sure, particularly lyrically (with titles like "Clones", "Meltdown" and "Vampire Love") but still ostensibly fast-paced pop with loud guitars and the flippant Ash imprint. And in "On A Wave", a potential Summer anthem, surely?
An hour and 20 minute set, which flew by, was followed by encores including "Petrol" (respect!) and the anthemic punk thrill of "Burn Baby Burn", the inevitable set closer. A riotously fun time had by all, and (I know I've said this before, but...) as good as I've seen Ash. Blistering stuff for my 10th Ash performance - a perfect 10!