Home Gigs Gig Review – Ash Ulster Hall 19th December 2023

Gig Review – Ash Ulster Hall 19th December 2023

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Review by Damien Doherty for MPM

It’s almost a year to the day since their 30th Anniversary show, and Ash are back to a thronged Ulster Hall. The Downpatrick lads have toured aplenty in 2023 and also released their 8th studio album Race The Night in September.

The A-Team/Flash intro proclaims their arrival and they hit the stage with a bang with a duo of songs from the newest release – the resounding sounds of Like a God, and the catchy title track Race The Night. Back to 1977 next for Angel Interceptor which has the entire venue jumping and then a familiar intro signals A Life Less Ordinary, a personal favourite (both song and film).

Tim Wheeler has a Miami Vice air going on tonight resplendent in white suit and peachy/pink satin lining with the obligatory rolled up sleeves to compete the look. He promises the crowd that since last year’s 30th show they’re one year older and better, before launching headlong into Goldfinger.

Another new song Reward in Mind rocks hard but mind you the whole set tonight feels heavier than we have seen previously! Thunderous drums and flanged guitars announce Orpheus, with everyone joining in on opening line “Last summer I did nothing”. All hands are clapping for Confessions In The Pool which segues seamlessly into the majestic Shining Light. Full crowd participation is required for Walking Barefoot the opening track from 2001’s Free All Angels, while Oh Yeah has the whole house hopping and the lads demand participation for the refrain.

Tim gives a shout out to Pete Lloyd who designed the artwork for Race the Night before springing into Usual Places, a wistful look back at the now departed hangouts from the old days, a sentiment most of us in our, ahem, middle years can relate to. Oslo, a duet with Rick McMurray in the absence of Démira is “one to get the lighters out for in the old days” states Tim, immediately inciting a more modern sea of phone light.

It’s been a Flying V night so far – but look out here comes an acoustic guitar. The “Ash song of the year” exclaims Tim; he’s been excited to play Crashed Out Wasted at the Ulster Hall, and a beautiful work of art it is. Mellow vibes course through the audience before the white V is strapped back on for the hefty song outro complimented with confetti cannons.

From the balcony it looks like a snowstorm has descended on those assembled on the floor! Braindead is the final song from their latest offering tonight and has a pop punk feel to it punctuated with guttural roars for good measure. Kung Fu still sounds as great as when I first encountered it on the John Peel show more years ago than I care to remember.

Its interlude has Rick standing pounding the Toms while Mark has a little lie down this year rather than recreating last year’s crowd surfing antics. Girl From Mars is always a fan favourite and a perfect way to end the main set. And they’re off, for now.

Additional mics and amps herald the arrival of some special guests for the encore. A chorus of Olé Olé Olé Olé from the masses and they’re back on the stage, Mark Hamilton has a new T-shirt and I’m not surprised, his on-stage acrobatics have definitely worked up a sweat.

Those guests are some of the folks from support acts Wynona Bleach and Brand New Friend who join for an impromptu cover of Whams Last Xmas. Mark sternly tells off the security staff for trying to kill the vibe by standing in the middle of the crowd and they depart before the penultimate song, the legendary Uncle Pat, and everyone is bouncing again. No surprises for the evenings closer, it has to be Burn Baby Burn and it’s dedicated to all who’ve travelled home for the holidays.

To enthusiastic applause the lads shuffle off to the sound of Harry Belafonte singing Jump in the Line (Shake Senora) in the background.

It’s been another great Ash gig, with the band on top form. A blistering set from start to finish and the songs from the new album really integrate well. Hopefully we will see the guys as active in 2024, so be sure to catch them as often as you can.

Photography by MPM

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