The laneway outside the Button Factory is alarmingly quiet just moments before Ash take the stage. Have the Downpatrick trio really fallen that much from superstardom that filling the modest Temple Bar venue is now an effort? Not so, it turned out. Walking into the venue, it became clear that the throng were just hidden indoors to escape a particularly chilly November bite in the air.
You tend to forget about Ash sometimes, and this is a shame. Once the darlings of power pop, Tim Wheeler, Mark Hamilton and Rick McMurray have since dropped second guitarist Charlotte Hatherley – along with their pin-up status you suspect – and the album format as a whole. Their current mission is to release 26 singles in a year, one every two weeks. An insurmountable task, I hear you shriek. Maybe. For most bands you would have to agree, but Ash have proved, in case you’d forgotten, that they could always shit out the catchy goods on a regular basis, and have a magic weapon in their arsenal – the famous -Ash hook’. Tonight, they intend to remind us of this.
Admittedly, the band have to put a few songs away before lift-off is attained. -Fucking great to finally be back on Irish soil’, says evergreen frontman Tim Wheeler, looking 100% preserved from his GCSE years. He goes on to tell us that the group’s equally ambitious A-Z Tour ended with a show in some place called Zennor, playing to 70 people. Now, he’s got 500 grinning people pogo-ing to -Girl From Mars’, -Kung Fu’ and -A Life Less Ordinary’. No wonder he’s happy.
Much and little has changed about Ash. Physically, the only difference seems to lie with bassist Hamilton, who is starting to resemble Marco Pierre White. Otherwise, Wheeler and Hamilton still throw the rocker shapes, while McMurray bustles away behind the kit. Sonically, they bear little resemblance to the 1977 guys. -Return Of White Rabbit’, one of the night’s many highlights, sees them throw a mini disco, complete with dinky lasers. Meanwhile, -True Love 1980′ is laden with sequencers and squiggles. These songs, from the A-Z series, are already dear to their fans’ hearts because they contain that unifying element – the aforementioned -Ash hook’.
And so, with the joyous rush of -Burn, Baby, Burn’ still ringing in our ears, the show ends. We make our way outside, a little better prepared for the cold this time.
Photos: Kieran Frost