05 November 1997

Review: Irving Plaza 1997

Irving Plaza
New York, NY
November 5, 1997

Richard Ashcroft, lead singer of UK sensation-of-the-moment, the Verve, must have visited the same psychic that told Kula Shaker's Crispian Mills that his band was going to be "very busy for the next ten years." Back after an amicable break-up in 1995, the Verve is now riding a massive wave of popularity thanks to their hit single "Bittersweet Symphony," an over the top in rock quality new LP, Urban Hymns, and a wonderful friendship with Verve cheerleader Oasis's Noel Gallagher.

As the house lights went down and the roar of the crowd went up, a blinding beam of laser lights signaled the entrance of the Verve. Guitarist Nick McCabe, bassist Simon Jones, drummer Pete Salisbury, and keyboardist Simon Tong walked out, followed by Richard Ashcroft, ever the consummate showman in matching white shirt & jeans, and the famed black shoes from the "Bittersweet Symphony" video. The band took the stage and launched into "A New Decade," the track from their second LP A Northern Soul's introducing the crowd to a an hour and a half set of pure sonic bliss.

The groovy, pschedelicized set was a mix of the band's three LPs--A Storm In Heaven, A Northern Soul, and Urban Hymns--and had an arena gleam that might be more at home at Madison Square Garden. On songs like "Slide Away," "Man Called Sun," and "Stormy Clouds" various audience members could be seen in a trance-state, often levitating with eyes rolled upward.

On the more subdued tracks like "On Your Own," "Drugs Don't Work," and "Sonnet" Ashcroft strummed away on an acoustic guitar, letting the melody flow and seemingly cleanse his body. "The Rolling People," was the most potent song of the night where the band got to bare their teeth, indeed achieving what they had wished to do all along: Make rock dangerous once again.

Ashcroft kept the onstage chatter to a bare minimum, stopping only to introduce a song or two or say thank you to the adoring crowd. Often, he would beckon the crowd closer and closer, hoping to incite a riot that surprisingly never happened. There wasn't even stage diving or crowd surfing!

Finally, after closing the set with "Stormy Clouds," the band took an extremely short break, only to come back and play the hit song, "Bittersweet Symphony." Complete with a recording of the famed string section, the band pleased the majority of the newer fans, but the real piece de resistance was combined in the last two songs, "History" and Urban Hymns closer, "Come On."

"We're gonna leave you with a fu**ing good one!" Ashcroft chanted before "Come On," a song that closed the show at an apex. Ten minutes of sound that seemed too much for an opening night. After three years away from New York, it was a strong comeback show for the Verve--enough to make a believer out of the uninitiated.
  • Originally featured on The Verve Sunset Strip site run by Matt
  • Spin Magazine, by Arleen Colone