As a longtime fan of Richard Ashcroft, it was an absolute treat to finally get to see the man perform in person. After following him from his days in the brilliant band The Verve through his current solo career, last night marked the first time I had the opportunity to catch him live. My admiration and love for his music stretches over many years, back to my high school days when a friend of mine introduced me to A Storm In Heaven. After hearing "Butterfly" and "Slide Away" for the first time, I never looked back. My infatuation with Ashcroft's music continued to grow over the years, with his solo track "You On My Mind In My Sleep" even becoming the first dance at my wedding. Yeah, my wife is just as obsessed as I am.
After a quick show at the Bowery Ballroom last night, we hauled ass over to Webster Hall. Ashcroft had just started to perform the Verve classic "Sonnet", so we were already off to a fantastic start. He was dressed in his typical rock threads, complete with his trademark shades. His backing band was fantastic, including a badass saxophone player.
The first thing that I noticed was his absolute respect and appreciation for his fans. The sold-out room was totally into the performance, for which he was grateful. At the end of "Sonnet", Ashcroft thanked the crowd, declaring that we are "his people." Before launching into a few tunes off his new record, Keys To The World, he also mentioned that to him, all that mattered was the mutual appreciation he felt from the audience. The crowd was there to enjoy his music and he was there to provide said music. Record sales and performing in front of massive crowds no longer means shit to him. Webster Hall was, as he said, "where the rock is made."
His sporadic set bounced from solo records to material from The Verve's Urban Hymns, even including "Lonely Soul" from UNKLE's Psyence Fiction album. My favorite moments happened at various points during the performance, such as "New York", one of the finer tracks from his Alone With Everybody album. This rendition of the tune was much more rockin' that the album version, which totally took the song to a whole new level. During "Lucky Man", which he dedicated to his lovely wife, the crowd was hit by beams of light reflected off of the largest disco ball I have ever seen, which rotated behind the drum kit.
The absolute highlight for me was his acoustic performance of The Verve's "Space And Time." For most of the song it was just Ashcroft and his guitar, backed by the singing of the crowd. It was a stunning moment for the fans in the room, hearing such a song stripped down to its core. He was then joined by his saxophone player for the conclusion of the tune, which sent chills down my spine.
It was a fantastic evening at Webster Hall, finally getting to see a musician that I consider a modern day legend. Watching such a rock star perform as if he was in front of a group of friends, sociable and humble towards his fans, I left the venue feeling like a lucky man. No pun intended.
Much thanks to Drew Goldberg for the photos.