SSE Hydro, Glasgow
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DESPITE tarped-off sections of the SSE Hydro suggesting that Richard Ashcroft’s drawing power might have been overestimated, there was something fitting about the former Verve singer playing such a setting. Ashcroft loves these big venues, and the rock god poses and gestures came rapidly.
There was time for a shout-out to the Barrowland too, as well as a questionable dedication of Lucky Man to Bradley Manning, now Chelsea Manning. A mention of being more appreciated here and in Buenos Aires than in England raised an eyebrow, given that he has equally large venues lined up down south, but perhaps he feels he should be at Wembley.
Sadly, he shouldn’t, and going purely by songs rather than stage presence, he shouldn’t have been here either. The sparkling jacket he wore on his entrance was more remarkable than material from last year’s These People album, with the one exception being the lively, unashamed pop of Out Of My Body, an eager, uptempo number with lyrical bite.
The rest, however, were less Mad Richard and more Bland Richard, bombastically earnest and seemingly targeted at folk who boringly insist there isn’t enough "proper music" these days. That meant Ashcroft and his band were armed with guitar, bass, drums and dull seriousness, going through the meat and potatoes rock of This Is How It Feels and cod-funk of Everybody Needs Somebody To Hurt. Ashcroft has never met a good four minute song that he didn’t want to extend unnecessarily, so older solo material was drawn out with tedious jamming, notably Music Is Power. Not like this, Richard.
It was dispiriting to see how the creative figure of years past, of sprawling psychedelia and chaotic, challenging rock, has embraced rock conservatism so thoroughly. Tracks from his old band only illustrated such deficiencies, with a crisp Velvet Morning, heart-tugging The Drugs Don’t Work and towering Bitter Sweet Symphony reminders of his old skills. They cast a shadow his current songs could not escape, no matter how many times he dropped to his knees or defiantly clenched his fist.