It remains one of rock’s enduring mysteries why Northern Ireland’s finest Ash are only playing decent sized venues like this instead of stadiums and this fun packed greatest hits sets only added to the conundrum.

Most bands would settle for a couple of indie pop classic like Girl From Mars or Goldfinger, but this set – nominally plugging new album Kablammo – was peppered with little gems much to delight of their loyal fans who have stuck with the band through some tough times.

Thankfully they have dropped their more recent rockist tendencies to focus on what they do best bashing out indie pop classics, and they put down a marker down with a romp through A Life Less Ordinary from the film of the same name.

At times in the past Ash have sometimes looked like being in a band has been torture for them, but tonight they were on supremely relaxed form joshing with each other as charming frontman Tim Wheeler teased bassist Mark Hamilton about a trip to Build a Bear during the day.

The fans got a chance to shake their tushes during a riotous Kung Fu and the evergreen Oh Yeah kicked off a touching singalong as the mature crowd really sang out the wistful chorus.

Drummer Rick McMurray had celebrated his 40th birthday that day in true rock and roll style watching CBeebies with his daughter, but as he pointed out that was ok and life is good. Indeed it is as Cocoon and Machinery from the new album shows them back to their best after an eight year break between records as they refocus on melody rather than volume.

As you might expect they finished their set with Girl From Mars sparking a genteel, and slightly arthritic, mosh pit as their loyal fans bellowed out the words leaving the trio with huge smiles on their face.

Sometimes a gig becomes more than a promotional opportunity and like tonight a band seems to come to their senses before your very eyes as they refocus on what they do best. It might be too late for Ash to become stadium rockers, but their new found zest for life as a band more than compensates for missing out on that dubious path to happiness.

Ash have dates left in Norwich, Brighton, Cardiff and Belfast before Christmas and Kablammo is out now on EarMusic

 

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