Review and Photos by Mike Bax

If there was a running theme for this weekend’s Ash performance, ‘Old Is New’ would definitely suffice.

For this early Saturday night Toronto performance from Ash we got their 20+ year-old debut album 1977 performed in its entirety. From Kestrels, we got a slathering of post-modern material harkening back to bands from the early 1990’s (I’m thinking Swervedriver and Revolver).

Kestrels took the stage at 7pm and levied 40 minutes of original material to a room that seemed a bit shallow on attendees in my opinion. At least early on anyway, the venue gradually filled up with patrons as Kestrels performed. This show had the Mod Club Saturday evening curfew working against them – Most Saturday shows at the Mod Club have the bands all finished performing by 9:30pm. I think everyone (bands included) likely had to vacate the premises by 10:00pm to allow for a quick clean-up and the venue to then allow entry to their dance crowd. Kestrels perform positioned onstage with their bassist and drummer at center stage and dual guitarist/vocalist on either side. It didn’t take long for attendees to latch onto the vibe that the band were emoting – aggressive, hazy, feedback-laden bliss that seemed to get more appealing the longer the band stayed on stage. Kestrels have a new album (STREAM IT HERE) that just saw release the night before this performance, and based on what they delivered on stage, all indications are that the self-titled album is going to be a winner amongst noise-rock/shoegazer aficionados.

Ash, to me, is one of the best things to come out of the 1990s. There has always been something special about their approach to songwriting and performing that keeps me coming back again and again. I was late to the party on 1977 – I was turned onto the band shortly before the release of Nu Clear Sounds after reading a favourable article on them in NME and subsequently didn’t see them tour some of those early tracks I knew they would performing this evening. Add in the rumored inclusion of some deep cuts (as Tim Wheeler introduced them for us) like ‘Sneaker’ and ‘T. Rex’ and this was indeed an evening Ash fans certainly didn’t want to miss.

As the band got their equipment set up for the show, Mark Hamilton strode on stage and removed his minimal set up – a single long neck well-loved bass, preset with only three strings (the lower fourth string simply removed) along with a small square board with maybe four pedals on it. He taped down his instrument cable strategically with a double coil taped down close to his peddles and then a four-foot straight line of cable taped completely down running towards center stage with a double cross of duct tape to hold the works in place. After steeping on a single a peddle a few times and strumming a few quick notes – he left the stage, all ready to rock. Rick and Tim’s set ups weren’t quite as easy, but still seemed to me to be done quite quickly considering the big sound this three piece can accomplish both in the studio and on stage.

With an intro prompt from the film Blade Runner as their walk-on song the three lads from Downpatrick, Ireland strutted on stage at 8:00pm, quickly expressed their happiness to be back in Toronto, and got right down to business with ‘Lose Control’. Ash Performed the 12 songs on 1977 in sequence, before ripping into ‘Jack Names the Planets’ and two B-sides from that same era (the afore mentioned ‘Sneaker’ and ’T. Rex’). They then included the Abba cover of ‘Does Your Mother Know’, a track Tim said they used to play twenty years ago, and ultimately wrapped up their initial set with ‘A Life Less Ordinary’, their first single before Nu Clear Sounds saw release, a track that was included on the Danny Boyle film of the same.

Ok, the sound wasn’t 100% perfect. I noticed a few gaffs through the performance, but they were pretty minor in the grand scheme of things and didn’t take away from the mojo that band was emoting over the 21 songs. What really struck me tonight was that the things that worked for the band, and this debut album in particular, were all present and accounted for tonight. We got the songs by the original line-up of the core three lads who were all emoting the same kinetic energy they must have had twenty years ago as they performed.

The encore consisted of ‘Orpheus’ (from their fourth album Meltdown); ‘Let’s Ride’ (from their latest 2015 album Kablammo) along with ’Shining Light’ and ’Burn Baby Burn’ (from their 2001 album Free All Angels). Tim Wheeler, Mark Hamilton and Rick McMurray more than delivered the goods tonight to an audience of veteran fans along with a few people who were seeing them for the first time. I heard one first-time girl as I was leaving the venue gushing over the guitaring from both Tim and Mark as she gave her boyfriend a hard time over having not brought her to see them perform sooner. For me (having not seen them on the original 1977 tour) close to 50% of these Ash songs I’d never heard performed live before. I left the venue a happy man.

Setlist:
Lose Control
Goldfinger
Girl from Mars
I’d Give You Anything
Gone the Dream
Kung Fu
Oh Yeah
Let It Flow
Innocent Smile
Angel Interceptor
Lost in You
Darkside Lightside
Jack Names the Planets
Sneaker
T. Rex
Does Your Mother Know (ABBA cover)
A Life Less Ordinary

Encore:
Orpheus
Let’s Ride
Shining Light
Burn Baby Burn

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