The mid to late 1990s was my favourite era for music and I was lucky enough to have seen pretty much every band I wanted to (Oasis, Blur, The Verve, Shed Seven, Suede, Stereophonics, Manic Street Preachers, Cast, Ocean Colour Scene, Supergrass, Prodigy and many, many more) but there were a few notable ones that eluded me such as Pulp, Radiohead, Black Grape and Ash. Somehow, they just never seemed to be on the bill for the various summer music festivals I went to in the 1990s and early 2000s. However, as the title suggests that ended the other night when I saw the latter live in Tokyo.
When the Northern Ireland three-piece band announced they’d be coming to Japan the first thing I noticed was the Japanese poster for the three-date March tour where two of the gigs were in April! Furthermore, all of the ordinal numbers were incorrectly spelled!!
‘Kung Fu‘ was the first Ash song that came to my attention in 1994 mainly because the cover featured the famous kick on a fan by Eric Cantona. ‘Girl From Mars‘ propelled them to chart success and a string of hit singles followed before and after the release of their ‘1977‘ album. By that time I was very interested in the band who were the same age as me and also Star Wars fans which resulted in some great features in the music press of that time.
My interest in Ash’s music continued up till the A-Z singles project but as my music listening dwindled big time in the last decade the last couple of studio albums just simply bypassed my attention. Once I’d bought a ticket for this gig, I then began to prepare by listening to their impressive back catalogue.
Shibuya Club Quattro was the venue for the band’s 30th anniversary tour, and a place I’ve never noticed but must’ve walked past countless times over the years. On arrival, ticket holders could enter in blocks of ten based on the number on the ticket.
There was then a further wait on the fourth floor to actually enter the stage area where I saw this sign about not stage diving or moshing! I’m not sure if that’s a post Covid_19 measure or not! Either way, it wasn’t something that would affect me!
There was a rather modest collection of band t-shirts on sale but there was nothing specific to this Japan tour so I didn’t part with 5000 yen! The band’s drummer Rick McMurray was later wearing one himself though which is quite unusual I guess!
Despite forking out 7500 yen for the ticket, there is the extra cost in Japan of purchasing one drink at the venue. Had the ticket been 8100 yen and included the drink, I probably wouldn’t mind but no doubt there is a reason for it being separate.
Just after 8pm the trio came on stage following an A-team style intro. Four 1990s tunes were bashed out in quick succession before the drummer Rick did the first speech of the evening. I always think it’s strange when anyone apart from the singer speaks between songs, particularly the drummer but it’s something I remember Muse doing way back at Summer Sonic ’06. He mentioned that their five year absence from playing in Japan was too long!
Another bunch of hit singles were then rattled off without much pause for breath. All of their studio albums were represented with the exception of ‘Twilight of the Innocents‘ which was a little surprising.
The aforementioned ‘Kung Fu‘ went down very well with the crowd as did ‘Girl From Mars‘ before the band left the stage prior to the inevitable encore. I still don’t understand why bands always do this! It was no surprise of course that they finished with ‘Burn Baby Burn‘ but who’d have though the two songs preceding it would both be from their ‘Nu-Clear Sounds‘ (1998) album which was something of a disappointment at the time.
The screaming parts of ‘Numbskull‘ led to some partipation with the audience which was a mix of all ages when I thought it would mostly be a load of 40-something men! Things temporarily eased up during this song in what was a blistering 90 minute set featuring 21 songs. I departed Club Quattro on a high and was thankful that I had finally got to see a band that I’ve grown up with. Better late than never!
Setlist: Goldfinger, Wild Surf, A Life Less Ordinary, Oh Yeah, Walking Barefoot, Arcadia, Orpheus, Cocoon, Jack Names The Planets, Angel Interceptor, Darkest Hour Of The Night, Confessions In The Pool, Shining Light, Sometimes, Uncle Pat, Buzzkill, Kung Fu, Girl From Mars, Numbskull, Jesus Says, Burn Baby Burn.
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