Richard Ashcroft at Castlefield Bowl: Review

Former The Verve front man, Richard Ashcroft, rolled back the years on Friday night to deliver a performance that solidified his reputation as one of England’s most formidable and natural songwriters with an unmistakably original sound.

Any sceptics in the crowd that hadn’t heard or seen RA since 2011’s United Nations of Sound were in for a rude awakening – the man from Wigan donning a mirrorball jacket, ‘I love MCR’ t-shirt and trademark sunglasses set the tone for the night as he dominated the stage with charismatic swagger.

Opening with the debut track from his latest album These People (2016) the electronically infused Out of My Body reminded fans that Richard Ashcroft was not relying on former glories to get him through the night. RA’s new material sounds just as original as it sounded 20 years ago and yet it could have sat proudly on 1997’s Urban Hymns. The anthemic This is How it Feels and They Don’t Own Me unified the audience on both occasions – new songs with choruses that old and new fans fully obliged with as the outdoor amphitheatre of the Castlefield Bowl erupted.

Sonnet got an early outing as the local hero hammered out a two hour set that spanned the new album, solo material and tracks RA built his name on with The Verve – classics such as Lucky Man were interspersed with Space and Time, Weeping Willow and Velvet Morning.

RA dedicated Songs For Lovers as an ode to some of Manchester’s finest – with Johnny Marr, Shaun Ryder and The Stone Roses on the role call – Ashcroft certainly knew his audience, with the capacity crowd giving him their full appreciation as an adopted son of the city.

RA took on the audience throughout the evening – often cutting a sharp figure and strutting across the stage – almost an homage to Britpop peer,Liam Gallagher, or Ian Brown. The retro staging lights and graphics added to the nostalgia of the evening in a performance that ticked all the boxes.

Ashcroft’s band took a short break as he delivered a solo rendition of The Drug’s Don’t Work – a sea of fans aloft of friend’s shoulders singing back at him. RA’s band rejoined him for the euphoric crescendo – the timeless classic Bitter Sweet Symphony played as RA climbed the stage speakers to salute the audience and bring to a close an energetic night full of attitude and charm that left fans in awe.

As RA sang on the night, “music is power”.

Set list
Out of My Body
Sonnet
Space and Time
This Is How It Feels
A Song for the Lovers
Velvet Morning
Science of Silence
They Don’t Own Me
Music Is Power
Lucky Man
Weeping Willow
These People
The Drugs Don’t Work
Hold On
Bitter Sweet Symphony

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