Just three days before Richard Ashcroft's 50th birthday XS Noize announced that he would release a new LP of his acoustic hits. With The Verve’s Urban Hymns just one year away from its 25th anniversary, one can only imagine the elation fans felt that eight out of the twelve songs from this new LP Acoustic Hymns Vol.1 contained reimagined songs from this timeless LP.
Whilst this was a solo show, and this new LP also celebrated Ashcroft’s two decades and counting successful solo career, which has earned him several top-five LP’s, fans were expecting Urban Hymns material. Ashcroft had the hindsight to see this, and when he opened with “Sonnet”, the sold-out London Palladium went elatedly crazy, stood up, cheering and singing every word with either a beer can or a plastic pint glass in one hand, and for some, a vape in the other. The Palladium would not be seated from this point onwards.
Ashcroft appeared not to have aged as he addressed the stage with long hair, shades, army camouflage cap and jacket covering his bare chest. Backed with an acoustic guitarist, bassist, organist, drummer and a five-piece orchestra (three violins, one cello and one double bass), Ashcroft was able to recite his original string supported anthems in their original glory. Except for playing three songs from his 2016 LP These People, Ashcroft, for the most part, stuck to the tracklist from the forthcoming Acoustic Hymns Vol.1 release.
While this was not an acoustic show, the guitar riffs were absent for the first six songs Richard performed. For track seven, the first single from Keys to the World, Ashcroft swapped the acoustic guitar for an electric one and performed some mesmerising guitar solos, which also deftly synchronised with the rest of his band and orchestra. For the remainder of the set, Richard returned to using the acoustic guitar. Before the encore, Ashcroft played three more songs from Urban Hymns: ‘Velvet Morning’, ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ and ‘Lucky Man’. Whilst the playout before the encore ‘Lucky Man’ is the more positive and jolly lyrically compared to ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’, the collective ecstasy and serotonin secreted by the Palladium was more fecund.
Upon return from the encore, Richard returned without his army jacket. Still in his camouflage cap and now wearing a white t-shirt, his band and orchestra were nowhere to be seen. Richard and his acoustic guitar were truly Alone with Everybody, and Richard appropriately played a song from that LP, ‘C’mon People (We’re Making It Now)’. At this point, Richard spoke about the new LP Acoustic Hymns Vol.1 and how he would like to tour this album at the Sydney Opera House. Without explicitly mentioning current geopolitics, Ashcroft explained that these plans would have to be put on hold for the time being. Richard then played the next song ‘This Thing Called Life’ which he dedicated to his “beautiful wife, Kate”. Whilst this song wasn’t released as a single from United Nations of Sound from Ashcroft’s RPA & The United Nations of Sound project, ‘This Thing Called Life’ was extremely well received.
Throughout his set at the Palladium, Ashcroft consistently pinpointed which the audience would best receive songs and when to play them. As far as the crowd were concerned, Richard left the best to last as he played out with an extended version of the song ‘Bittersweet Symphony, which opens Acoustic Hymns Vol.1 Urban Hymns. Like with ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’, the dark and bleak lyrics produced an abundance of overflowing joy that brought people together.
Out of my body
This is how it feels
Song for the lovers
Break The Night With Colour
The Drugs Don’t Work
C’mon People (We’re Making It Now)
This Thing Called Life