Monday 22nd April saw the North East play host to rock ‘n’ roll legend, Richard Ashcroft. The ‘Hold On’ innovator paid a visit to Newcastle’s beloved O2 Academy, where he took his fans on a nostalgic journey through Space and Time.
Inside, the venue remained considerably quiet as technicians began to prepare for the arrival of the evening’s support act, Wayne Griggs. The Northern Soul DJ has a history steeped in musical ventures, from regularly supporting The Verve in the 90s to touring the globe with Coldplay; he knows how to psych up a crowd.
Immersing the room in soulful sounds and infectious beats, the record revolutionary treated the ever-growing crowd to a catalogue of classics including leading tracks from Young Mc, The Supremes and the mighty James Brown. Yet there seemed to be a certain anti-climactic feeling post-support act, with many revellers disgruntled by the lack of an energetic, live support band. Nevertheless, this minor hiccup failed to dampen gig-goers spirits, as atmospheric choruses filled the sold-out venue ahead of Ashcroft’s arrival.
Sauntering onto the stage with that oh so familiar charisma, the late Verve frontman introduced his set with his 2016 release, ‘Out of My Body’, accompanied by an excitable, infectious hum from the crowd below. Yet it was the Manchester musician’s second track of the evening that led the packed-out venue into a festal frenzy, filling the room with harmonious choruses of The Verve’s hit classic, ‘Sonnet’.
As the evening continued, Ashcroft tore through an extensive set list airing new tracks such as, ‘That’s How Strong’ and ‘Surprised by the Joy’ from his latest album, ‘Natural Rebel.’ Yet it was the rock pioneer’s old material that reaped the largest response from the crowd as he hurtled through classics such as, ‘A Song for Lovers’, ‘Lucky Man’, ‘Music is Power’ and ‘The Drugs Don’t Work.’
It’s of popular opinion that Richard Ashcroft is one of the best frontmen of all time, and seeing him perform in such an intimate, alluring venue accentuated his reputation further. His faultless vocals combined with his indisputable charm and admirable body of work set him apart from the crowd, and deservedly so.
Not surprisingly, it was an iconic smash hit from The Verve’s 1997 album, ‘Urban Hymns’ that brought the evening to a close. As the familiar, iconic intro of ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ filled the room, gig-goers stood arm-in-arm, united as they bare witness to one of those rare phenomena’s in musical history.
What an evening.