Ash At The Olympia Theatre – Review & Photos
Northern rock icons Ash have had a rather spectacular year. Having perhaps fallen into relative obscurity over the past few years, 2015 has thrusted them back into the limelight with KABLAMMO!, a hard hitting guitar pop record with everything that made us love Ash all those years ago. Several huge singles such as ‘Cocoon’ and ‘Machinery’ have been boosting their popularity, and now coming home from their UK tour, the boys finish up with a bout of Ireland beginning in Dublin’s Olympia Theatre.
There is a collective air of pride and excitement buzzing around as the lights dim and the pop punk heroes gallop onstage. Ash have come on a long way in a short year’s time. Only six months ago were the boys playing in Whelan’s, an exceptional gig that was criminally small. Now, we hear the opening chords of ‘Go, Fight, Win!’ played to twice as many people. Deafening roars cheer on the slick guitar skills of frontman Tim Wheeler, and Mark Hamilton’s thunderous bass echoes through the whole building. In fact, it actually covers up the guitars and vocals somewhat. ‘A Life Less Ordinary’ is next and is a teen rock classic. This beautiful yet snarly anthem is the first of many tunes to be sung along word by word from the crowd.
After a cheery hello from Wheeler, more classic Ash ensues with ‘Goldfinger’, ‘Jack Names The Planets’ and the monumental ‘Kung Fu’. While the energy levels are faultless, there are a few technical issues. The balance is more than a little skewed, with the bass now completely dominating. Vocals are hard to hear and the guitar solos are frustratingly low in the mix. The band are possibly aware of this, as a few unlikely mistakes in timing and pitch are made. Thankfully, by the time ‘Kung Fu’ is played, it seems to be sorted and some Freddie Mercury esque crowd interaction sets the place on fire.
The newer tunes really excel in a live setting, and ‘Let’s Ride’ is the case in point. The trebly guitars are piercing and so raw. The bass, now at an appropriate level, is fuzzy and booming. Their latest single, ‘Machinery’ is irresistibly catchy, and boasts a really old school Ash sound. A charming cover of ‘Teenage Kicks’ sees the band joined onstage by their two support bands in a flurry of drunken dancing and singing. The energy only sky rocketing now, spirits are higher than ever. The unusual song choices of ‘Zombie Christmas’ and 2001 ballad ‘There’s A Star’ go down exceptionally well, with the latter shining through with the pre recorded string sections. A mammoth performance of ‘Shining Light’ and 1995 classic ‘Girl From Mars’ close up the main set, leaving most in the front rows moshing happily away.
If there was any question over the quality of the gig thus far, the monster encore would surely answer them. Revealing their plans, Wheeler asks if it’s ok with everyone if they played for 25 minutes until curfew. Unsurprisingly, the crowd agree, and the jangling intro of ‘Walking Barefoot’ gives the Olympia a giant kick up the ass. ‘Angel Interceptor’ transports us back to 96’, with Hamilton jumping into the crowd to finish the song in a sweaty mess with the crowd.
Perhaps the oddest tune of the night, the Star Wars ‘Cantina Band’ theme, is covered in honour of its grand opening that evening, with the old school fan favourite ‘Uncle Pat’ throwing the audience another treat. All in the building bounce in sync with Wheeler’s youthful stage presence. Closing up once and for all with ‘Burn Baby Burn’, the band are joined one more time with their crew and support bands. The show ends in a flurry of guitars, lights, dancing, and insane bass moves.
Ash are always a treat to see live, but there is something different about them these days. No longer content to be a nostalgia band playing to small venues, they have once again become a current, happening band producing top class guitar pop who play to very decent crowds. Ash deserve every bit of their current popularity. They are simply champions of their generation.
Photos by Anamaria Meiu
Review by Finn O’Reilly