Saturday, July 31, 2010

"Richard Ashcroft is greeted with as strong a welcome as any rock star" in Melbourne

Opening with lead single Are You Ready, Richard Ashcroft is greeted with as strong a welcome as any rock star.

The new material shows off his new band The United Nations of Sound’s achievements in crafting big pop, rock and gospel infused sounds around the balladry he tended to slide into with previous solo efforts.

Other new tracks like Born Again, the John Lee Hooker inspired blues of How Deep is Your Man and the exhilaratingly catchy march of America show an increasing diversity of material.

As promised the night spans the entirety of Ashcroft’s musical incarnations delivering brilliant ballads like Song for the Lovers and the slow groove Music is Power with equal aplomb.

It was always going to be The Verve songs, however, that received the best reception and Ashcroft didn’t disappoint, delivering a soul tearing rendition of Lucky Man before closing the first set with the much loved Bittersweet Symphony.

Ashcroft’s culturally diverse band each bring their own mark to the tunes, but it is Ashcroft who impresses as a frontman. Never hiding behind a microphone stand, he swaggers around stage, projecting his words with the passion and style of a hip hop MC; in fact, there is something of a poet to his nature and his words.

At several points he takes up a guitar and it is reassuring to see that, in the event of three consecutive string breaks, rather than losing his temper he continues playing, not missing a beat, before ripping the remaining strings off the guitar.

The second set opens with Ashcroft playing Verve tunes such as History, Sonnet and The Drugs Don’t Work solo, with every single word apparently memorised by the entire audience. It can be honestly said that time has been extremely kind to Ashcroft, with his vocals sounding as crisp and strong as ever. The rest of the band returns for a surprise rendition of UNKLE track Lonely Soul before eventually closing proceedings with I Get My Beat.