ASH blew the roof off The Ritz, Manchester on Tuesday night as they reached the forth leg of their sold out “KABLAMMO!” UK tour. Nicky Laing was there for us…

Formed in 1992 the Indie Punk trio – (vocalist and guitarist) Tim Wheeler, (drummer) Rick McMurry and (bassist) Mark Hamilton, who reign from Downpatrick, Northern Ireland, were deemed the ‘quintessential teen band’ shooting to fame as adolescent teens themselves, and as outsiders to Britpop during it’s peak, upon release of their 1996 debut album ‘1977’.

Twenty years on and six albums later, the boys, known for their chart topping hits such as ‘Oh Yeah’, ‘Girl From Mars’ and ‘Burn Baby Burn’ are still ever so popular with possibly their strongest album yet.

Support act Asylums, a thrash rock quartet from Southend, who are on the road with the trio up until December 15, wowed, with a fresh, thrilling, impressive set, full of fuzz + avant-garde noise and an uplifting fun persona.

Members: Luke Branch (vocalist/guitarist), Jazz Miell (guitarist), Henry Tyler (drummer) and Michael Webster (bassist) were perfectly suited to get the crowd hyped for the headliners.

Call it a stroke of luck or coincidence; Asylums had been standing outside the venue for some time during the 30-minute gap before Ash took the stage. I jumped at the opportunity to start conversation and mention how much I enjoyed their set, as well as asking about their experiences so far being on tour with Ash, and performing to larger scale crowds.

“Very, very fun and ever so slightly self-indulgent,” Branch responded, which was met with resounding agreement from the rest of the members.

In what sounds like their lost album of the late 90’s, the Irish trio have gone back to basics with their new record, ‘Kablammo!’ released earlier this year, by stripping away the more experimental beefy heavy metal influences which were focal points on previous albums, in favour of the incredibly catchy, melancholic, fast-paced, lush, sonic guitar riffs early Ash material had credibility for.

Manchester was in for a treat…

Kicking off the set with the energetic ‘Lose Control’ to roaring applause and excitable pogo-hoping by the crowd, Ash were already owning the stage in great fashion. The grunge infused classic ‘Goldfinger’ from their 1996 debut had the Ritz shaking as they kept levels high, before Wheeler brought us back down to earth with the unrushed track ‘Free’ from the new release.

Engaging with the crowd, Wheeler went on to share what his band mates had gotten up prior to the gig “Was anybody wondering around town in Manchester today? Was anyone at Build-a-Bear?” met with confused laughter from the crowd, Wheeler continued, “Did anyone see Mark in Build-a-Bear today? Mark were you building a bear or was it the My Little Pony Section? What was it again? Twilight Sparkle” with a surge of cackles and cheers from the crowd, persistent in having a dig at Hamilton, he carried on “He’s a full on Brony… Any other Bronies in the house tonight?” (For anyone unaware of the term “Brony” its slang for Males of any sexual preference who are huge fans of the My Little Pony Franchise).

Accelerating quickly into songs ‘Angel Interceptor’ and ‘Go! Fight! Win!’ had the crowd elevated. What was significantly compelling was the large scale of Irish audience members who came out to support their local boys. With a near equal mix of all ages, especially young adults, Ash still appeal and remain current, which was shown on the next track they played off their new album ‘Machinery’.

Seizing another moment to chat to the crowd, Wheeler expressed: “You guys are f*****g great thanks so much!

With a short pause the band delivered the first of gems we had all been waiting for… “OHHH YEAH, She was taking me over,” crooned Wheeler effortlessly. The opening line for popular track ‘Oh Yeah’ alone had the audience reacting in pure elation as they sang along word for word and moshed to their hearts content.

Five songs later, now down tuning their instruments in the lead up to their set closer a member of the audience shouted “Happy Birthday Rick!” to which Wheeler responded “Oh yeah! it’s Rick’s birthday of course tonight… Rick’s just turned 40.”

With cheers from the audience, McMurry interrupted “F**k my life…only kidding it’s f*****g great”. Contributing his two cents, Wheeler joked: “That’s why Mark was actually in Build-a-Bear today, he was getting Rick a My Little Pony for his 40th birthday.”

@ash_1977 @ManchesterRitz #WalkingBarefoot #Gig21of23 #gig21of2015 #blistering

A video posted by jonbanks64 (@jonbanks64) on

Thanking the audience once again, the band left it to the crowd for any requests they wanted them to play, with several members shouting ‘Girl From Mars’ they launched right into the long awaited number, the venue was filled with euphoria and a unapologetically nostalgic vibe.

With that, the set had ended, yet there was still a yearning for more Ash, which the audience made sure they knew, with continuous clapping and chants for the band to return.

Arriving back for the much-craved encore, the band delivered four more songs; including a brilliant cover of the 1979 hit ‘Teenage Kicks’ by fellow Northern Irish, original Punk Rockers The Undertones. Ending the night with the popular ‘Burn Baby Burn’, met with much satisfaction from the audience, the night was over. Ash had left their mark, and the audience were all left buzzing.

By Nicky Laing

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