Following the release of their latest album, Islands, back in May, Ash embarked upon a UK tour of this album. XS Noize was invited to see the now three-piece from Downpatrick, Northern Ireland plug their latest offering as well as play classics at the Kentish Town Forum in London. Having first played the Forum back in 1996 over twenty years ago and with this being the last leg of the Islands tour, Tim Wheeler promised fans something extra special.
Following on from the supporting act, Norwegian garage rock band, Death By Unga Bunga, Ash opened as they did on Islands with the new song, True Story. True Story came across as the coming of age song it is. Speaking of age, Wheeler looked exceptionally healthy and trim. Perhaps Tim has taken up Kung Fu? Whether Wheeler has or not, when the crowds, several now middle-aged, moshed, jumped and danced as if they were at the peak of their adolescence.
The three-piece went on to play more of the Islands playlist including Annabel, Confessions in the Pool, All That I Have Left, Did Your Love Burn Out? and Incoming Waves. Despite these arguably being the strongest tracks off Islands, these tracks failed to get a significant reaction with the exception of Confessions in the Pool (which got respectable hand clapping owing to much prompting from Wheeler).
As well as the new material, Ash played a plethora of their back catalogue which now spans over two decades. Oh Yeah, Angel Interceptor, Shining Light, Jesus Says and Orpheus, as well as several others, galvanised the crowd back into their teenage selves as well as their teenage energy levels. Few nineties bands are still able to command so much adrenaline rushing movement from their fans from their back catalogue as Ash has done. For loyal die-hard Ash fans, every song played which predated 2002 was extra special.
Was merely playing a generous helping of classic hits that something extra special Wheeler had promised to conclude the Islands tour. Absolutely not. Towards the last quarter of the set Wheeler introduced Damien O’Neill (The Undertones). The fellow Northern Irelander caused great excitement as he made Ash a four-piece once again. The excitement was so great that the crowd reacted to new song Buzzkill as if it was a single from 1977. Teenage Kicks was then covered and was followed by Girl from Mars which kept the excitement going post-crescendo and continued to accelerate as Ash played out with Burn Baby Burn. Ash refused to allow any vacuums of boredom to form which could explain why the set had no encore.
When Ash were recording their fourth album, Meltdown, Tim Wheeler kept a diary which he posted under the alias of “Kerouac”. For Ash fans, the early Ash songs continue to have the same appeal as “the mad ones (people)” had for Jack Kerouac, that “burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!” Whilst fans reacted with additional elation when Ash became a four-piece, fans will always be pleasantly content with Ash being a three-piece; but it is unlikely they will ever be able to endure any reduction to the Ash back catalogue being played live.