Live Review: Richard Ashcroft - Albert Hall, Manchester – 23/12/2018
Richard Ashcroft brought a career spanning set to Albert Hall, Manchester for a sold-out show.
Originally taking place on Halloween, Richard Ashcroft rescheduled the London and Manchester shows due to illness. But, from one holiday to another, we now had a pre-Christmas gig to look forward to. However, no hints of Christmas were made, instead the career spanning set list worked just fine as an early gift. Friends came together and fans united for some fine Sunday evening entertainment.
As an old chapel, Albert Hall is a beautiful Grade 2 listed building in the centre of the city and makes the perfect intimate live music venue. With eager fans pressed up against the front barrier, affixed throughout the venue and filled right up to the back doors, it was obvious fans of Ashcroft had waited a long time for this.
The wait was over, accompanied by his band Richard Ashcroft appeared on stage, in front of a huge backdrop of himself. The portrait, which is also the artwork for new album ‘Natural Rebel’, was draped across the stage. The stage, although one of the highest in Manchester, is also one of the smallest, and provided a certain level on intimacy. Meaning that if you are stood at the back of the room, you still feel close, or close enough to tell that this was a special venue to host a huge name like Richard Ashcroft.
With six solo albums, and four albums with The Verve, Richard Ashcroft is not strapped for content. Coinciding with the release of his new album ‘Natural Rebel’, we were expecting this to be heavily featured in the set. But, with only 3 songs played from the latest record, the set contained only his best material, which became a RA and The Verve greatest hits show. There’s no denying that Ashcroft has produced some brilliantly iconic songs over his career, but I was hoping to see a little more from the new album amongst the hits. Especially when I rated it amongst some of his best material, and when the ‘Natural Rebel’ backdrop hung so highly behind him taking over the stage.
The thirteen song set list, which included Verve songs ‘Sonnet’, ‘Lucky Man’, ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ and ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’, was dragged out with instrumentals. Stand out solo songs included ‘Hold On’, ‘Surprised by the Joy’, ‘A Song for the Lovers’ and ‘They Don’t Own Me’. Ashcroft talked humbly about recent successes, being pals with Liam Gallagher and joked with modesty in between most songs, gaining attention and cheers from the audience.
The set was mixed and fairly short, but there’s still no denying it that Richard Ashcroft is a crowd pleaser, with his bold attitude usually adding to the performance. Tonight, he seemed more genuine, thanking fans for making it a memorable night and wishing them a Merry Christmas.
‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ was the final song, it’s hard to believe that this iconic single was released more than 20 years ago. The track, which is most definitely not outdated, brought strobe lights to the set, whilst the room was full of people’s phones high in the air, it proved to still be the perfect closing song.
Recently burning a copy of the NME in a controversial publicity stunt when they gave him a bad review for his latest album, Ashcroft has demonstrated that he cannot be tamed. He’s a man of his words, but he is still making great music and putting on memorable gigs, so quit with the talking and enjoy yourself at one of his shows next year.
Returning to the North West to headline Neighbourhood weekender in Warrington next May, this will mark the end of a UK tour for Richard Ashcroft in April, and it’s sure to be a good one.
Words and Photography by Abbie Jennings