Why is it I tend to go see Ash on the hottest day of the year? That furnace of a Bristol Fleece gig the first time, or numerous balmy August Reading Festivals, and now a scorching FA Cup Final day! This one was an early gig so Rachel and I set off just after Liverpool had secured their comeback win (boo!), getting to Shepherd's Bush for 6.30 then street parking and tubing into the Astoria for a ridiculously early 7pm. However, we were right to do so, as we discovered that "early gig" tonight meant curfew at 10 pm! So, a quick drink later, we settled down to watch support Relish. Unfortunately, they were fucking terrible and wholly inappropriate for an Ash support; their first number sounded like all that is bad about early 70's bland prog rock - pompous, twiddly and soulless. The next numbers drifted into awful soul/funk pastiche, like the diluted George Benson-isms of early Jamiroquai, or the BMW-owners wallpaper funk of Seal. By now we'd repaired to the upstairs bar to get away from it all, only to find that the speakers now pipe the bands through to this former sanctuary. D'oh!
Anyway, we knew better things were coming, so we piled into the anticipating throng afterwards, while I noted that their backdrop, advertising new CD "Free All Angels", actually looked like it read "Free All Bagels"! Arf!
Ash joined us at 8.30, but despite the early hour were ready and prepared with some incendiary and powerful poppy punk rock. After a couple of numbers from their new "Bagels" CD (ha!), they hit in with the chiming intro to their tense and taut soaring masterpiece, "A Life Less Ordinary", and I piled into the madding throng to mosh like mad.
Ash now appear to have been around for ages, but thankfully still sound young, fresh and vital. The new material tends more to the naive thrashy optimism of their early stuff than the disappointing rockier dynamics of second CD "Nu Clear Sounds", and their live set benefits from it. "Girl From Mars" sounds as fresh as ever, even with Tim Wheeler stretching out the quiet middle 8, and the dedication to the recently deceased Joey Ramone (RIP) was not only welcome, but demonstrated both an affinity for punk history and the debt that their sound owes to these masters of surf punk. A wonderfully welcome "Jack Names The Planets" and encore "Petrol" capped a splendidly dynamic set from an underrated but important act. Ladeez and Gentlemen, please welcome back Ireland's finest - Ash!