Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Richard Ashcroft in Dubai

The British singer-songwriter and ex-Verve frontman tells Chris Anderson what fans can expect from his set

Sandance traditionally consists of big-name dance acts, so it’s a surprise to see 40-year-old Richard Ashcroft on the bill. Known as the writer of ’90s chart anthems ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ and ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ during his time with The Verve, Ashcroft believes it is these back-catalogue hits that ensure he sits well alongside the rest of the line-up.

‘One of the last things I did was a benefit for the disaster in Japan at London’s Brixton Academy,’ he explains. ‘I came on with my acoustic guitar and started singing “Lucky Man”, and the whole place sang it with me, and it was, like, “wow”. When your songs have literally gone into the pores of the country… that’s when someone like me can stand alongside a dance act and create that euphoric feeling.’

Fans at Nasimi can expect to hear a mix of well-known Verve classics; Ashcroft also plans to showcase some of his later solo material at the gig, which will mark his first visit to Dubai. ‘Has the crisis hit there yet?’ he asks. ‘Are the cranes still on the horizon?’ He jokes about his preconceptions. ‘I suppose “keeping up with the Joneses” there is a bit like, “Oh, you’ve got the Bugatti in silver? I’m going to get it in gold.”’

But for Ashcroft, the serious side to everything is always the music. ‘How is Dubai’s music scene going to grow?’ he muses. ‘Now that’s going to be interesting. What is it the kids are listening to? What are they making? What is Dubai getting ready to say to the rest of the world? That’s the kind of thing I think about when I see a city like Dubai and the way it’s grown.’

His visit will only span a few days before he heads back to the UK to continue working on new material, which looks set to tap back into the classic, timeless Urban Hymns he became famous for writing in the mid ’90s. ‘I’m the guy who turned up in the village, sat under a tree, the people gathered round and I sang some tunes,’ he says. ‘Then they dropped money in my cap and I moved on to the next place – that’s who I am and that’s what I’ll be doing in Dubai. I just won’t have a cap.’