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When I first got wind that Richard Ashcroft was coming here, my “Sonnet” lyric tattoo from The Verve’s mega-successful album Urban Hymns practically raised up from off my skin–I am one of those types of fans. Ashcroft, who just released his fourth solo effort entitled United Nation of Sound, agreed to be part of the Jim Beam concert series, which momentarily made me question his integrity. It also made me wonder how much of his solo musical self would have to take a backseat to the infamous album that inspired my amazing ink (that’s what I refer to it as). Luckily, I was in for a nice surprise.
And by nice surprise, I am not referring to Ashcroft’s opener, Faces on Film. No, I am not sure why he calls himself that and yes, he is talented. But I was unfamiliar with his material since I haven’t heard of him since before that night. People listened, but I wandered off with a friend for a little bit until Ashcroft was slated to come out, and come out he did. He opened with “History” off of The Verve’s A Northern Soul. He got into classics like “Sonnet,” “Lucky Man,” “Space and Time,” and “The Drugs Don’t Work.” He was humble, stating that people in bands dream of having music that lasts for years and he was lucky enough to achieve that. Ashcroft appeared to be with the crowd, although my friend noticed that his eyes were closed throughout the entire set (“He knows we can see through his sunglasses, right?”) as he took pauses to play with the audience between his swigs of beer. Lucky enough for me, the people in the audience were all clearly drunk (sponsored by Jim Beam, remember?) but really into his set.
As far as his musical self was concerned, it wasn’t forced to the backseat at all. He performed songs like the soulful “Music is Power” and “Song for the Lovers” as well as newer material like “Are You Ready?” and “She Brings Me The Music.” Vocally, Ashcroft was on point all night, which stumped my friend (“How many cigarettes do you think I have to smoke to sound like that when I sing?”) and impressed everyone in the room. For the encore, I stopped breathing as he did “Weeping Willow” and before predictably doing “Bittersweet Symphony” as his last number, he commented that critics give him shit about living in the past by performing that song. But as Ashcroft stated, there’s nothing wrong with an artist admiring a brilliant painting he did. I snuck out a bit early to touch up my makeup (didn’t we all hear that song enough in 1997?) in the girl’s room only to meet someone who threw back a few too many and in turn threw up all over the bathroom. Who the hell rages that hard at a Richard Ashcroft show?