Armed with the official best album of 2001 and more hooks than a fisherman's warehouse, Ash have been bouncing around the US for the last several weeks trying to reel in the Creed-loving American public with the tastiest guitar pop songs in the business. And so it was that Ash descended upon, of all places, Grand Rapids, Michigan, to headline a free radio station-sponsored show for the masses of alt-rock loving folks who decided to show up because A) it was free and B) local station WGRD play Nickelback so they can't be all bad, right? Au contraire. But instead of informing the gathered hippies, skaters, metallers, nu-metallers, punks and indie kids of this, your faithful correspondent took a spot stage right on the grass to watch local alternawhatthefuckever upstarts Julius Bragg, who showed up not only to support Ash but to support local music, like, man!
After kicking off the show with a rock song that sounded like every other rock song on American radio ever, these frat boys (plus bad Johnny Rotten wannabe bassist) proceeded to launch into a series of songs which sounded just like the first one. Scandal! You'd have thought it would be a bit pretentious and redundant to play lots of songs that sound the same, but hey, that never stopped Creed, or dare I say it, Jamiroquai! Who? Right. After dispensing with requisite "girly song," Julius Bragg decided to close on covers of Bon Jovi's "Livin' On A Prayer" and Weezer's "Surf Wax America." Oh, unholy of unholies. Ash had a tough act to follow.
Armed with a Flying V guitar and a ridiculously good back catalogue from which to choose a setlist, Tim and company arrived on stage, announcing that they were from "Ireland, which is fucking miles away." Most of the audience proceeded to guess that Ireland was near Canada, whilst one confused tramp shouted for Ozzy. Preaching to the apathetic and unconverted, Ash got on with a 13-song set of hit after hit after hit (yes, every song on Free All Angels does count as a hit). From the pop masterpiece of "Walking Barefoot" to the teenagers in love naivety of "Oh Yeah," the band were on absolute top form. For a second, you'd have thought they owned Grand Rapids. Then having looked at the crowd, you'd realize that in actuality, nobody gave a flying fuck OR a rolling doughnut. Shameful, as the crowd were bearing witness (one shambolic "Jesus Says" aside) to one of the best and most energetic live bands to roll through their town for the last, well, ever.
At first I have to admit I was a bit skeptical of Ash's plans to release their forthcoming greatest hits record this autumn, after just 3 albums. But as the soaring choruses of "Goldfinger," "Kung Fu" and "Jack Names The Planets" ("we wanted to rock out the old stuff" stated frontman Wheeler) prove, it shall instead be a fitting testament to one of the finest guitar pop bands of a generation, or in fact, of any generation. See this band. Now.
Source: Josh Kahn (fans.gorillaz.com)