Live Review: Ash with Avery at Rips Bar, Phoenix, AZ – 24th September 2016

By on Tuesday, 27th September 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

Veteran Northern Irish rock band Ash are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their debut album ‘1977’ with a live tour, on which they’re playing the album in its entirety, along with a few more recent favourites. On the North American leg of the tour, they’re visiting a mix of small and mid-sized venues, but surely one of the smallest on the list was Rips Bar in Phoenix. Rips is a stand-alone club tucked into a residential area just northwest of downtown Phoenix, away from the hustle and bustle of other Phoenix venues and with an extremely relaxed vibe that seemed to suit Ash perfectly.

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Ash’s three band members went largely unnoticed by the bar patrons as they set up on the indoor stage at Rips. Meanwhile, the small crowd in the venue were treated to the opening act on the outdoor patio. Local folk-rock band Avery were just getting started when I found my way outside, and they came as a pleasant surprise ahead of Ash’s unabashed punk rock stylings. Avery’s lineup features singer/songwriter Mariah DeRaet on lead vocals, her smoky timbre uniquely accompanied by cellist Allison Galbreath at the front of the tiny stage on this night. The cello adds a deep sense of yearning to Avery’s lovelorn lyrics, as you can hear in their single ‘Hospital Call’ just below.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/KzTMDnh6O0w[/youtube]

Back inside the bar, Ash were nearly ready get back to ‘1977’. Or, more precisely, back to 1996, when the album was actually released. I was buried in my own classical music studies at university in 1996, and thus I missed out on the album the first time around. But anyone with even a passing interest in UK or Northern Irish bands will have heard of Ash, and editor Mary assured me that they were not to be missed live, so naturally my interest was piqued. Unfamiliar with the songs on ‘1977’, I had assumed that the title referred to songwriter Tim Wheeler’s birth year (also, coincidentally, my own). But in the course of doing some pre-gig homework, I discovered that it also paid homage to the release date of the movie ‘Star Wars’. which is referenced in the album’s opening and closing tracks, while other bits of 1970s pop culture are mixed into the middle.

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The audience, though still small, had grown a bit while I was outside listening to Avery. I hadn’t expected to see many longtime fans of the Northern Irish indie rockers at this gig, but there were, in fact, a handful of dedicated Ash fans milling about wearing the band’s t-shirts. There was no need to crowd the stage in a venue as small as this one, but we did all creep a bit closer as frontman Wheeler, bassist Mark Hamilton and drummer Rick McMurray tore into ‘1977’ opening track ‘Lose Control’. They hit their stride early on, even with the more pensive tones of ‘Goldfinger’ and moreso in the higher energy of ‘Girl from Mars’, and it must be said here that McMurray certainly got his workout in during this set, pounding relentless rhythms throughout.

The sound quality inside Rips was surprisingly good, given the small size of the venue, and mid-album tracks ‘Kung Fu’ and ‘Oh Yeah’, were especially energetic. Despite the almost complete absence of between-songs chat, or perhaps because of it, the band’s momentum from those tracks carried through to the end of the ‘1977’ set, which Wheeler announced as the final album track ‘Darkside Lightside’.

A true encore might have been overkill in this tiny venue, but luckily Ash had more to offer. Following the ‘1977’ sequence, Wheeler paused again to introduce the band’s debut single ‘Jack Names the Planets’ before the band added a few newer songs to round off the set. One enthusiastic punter squealed out for a song called ‘Default’, and Wheeler seemed puzzled for a moment, until he realised that she meant ‘Dispatch’, from Ash’s most recent album ‘Kablammo!’, which came out last summer. This would have been a more familiar song for me as well, but alas, the band weren’t prepared to play it, opting instead for another new track, ‘Let’s Ride’ before closing with ‘Burn Baby Burn’ from 2001 album ‘Free All Angels’.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/t5ZtotlZ0ug[/youtube]

They may not have had a large number of fans in attendance in Phoenix last weekend, but Ash most certainly won a new fan in me with their combination of punk energy, deft melodicism, and engaging stage presence. If you’re like me and ‘Kablammo!’ was your first real exposure to Ash, I strongly recommend browsing through their back catalogue for the gems you might have missed.

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Ash will continue the North American leg of their ‘1977 – 20th Anniversary Tour’ with larger shows in cities including Chicago, Washington, DC and New York through the start of October. They will bring the tour to the UK in November and December; those live dates are listed just below. A full listing of Ash’s worldwide tour dates can be found on their official Web site. TGTF’s previous coverage of Ash is right back here.

Thursday 10th November 2016 – Dublin Olympia Theatre
Friday 11th November 2016 – Belfast Mandela Hall
Thursday 1st December 2016 – Gloucester Guildhall
Saturday 10th December 2016 – London Roundhouse
Sunday 11th December 2016 – Manchester Ritz
Monday 12th December 2016 – Nottingham Rock City
Wednesday 14th December 2016 – Aberdeen Garage
Thursday 15th December 2016 – Glasgow Garage

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