Ash Hold A Shining Light At BRITs Week 24 For War Child

What happens after an arena-filling band disappears from the spotlight? In Ash’s case, they carry on regardless. In their heyday the Northern Irish trio could pack festival main stages but then they just faded away into the footnotes of the Britpop era, at least in the public’s mind. But they never really stopped touring or making music, and some thirty years after the teenagers were plucked from obscurity they’ve accumulated a smaller but incredibly dedicated fan base. Here in the basement 100 Club under Oxford Street, the Ash faithful are out in force. This was one of the first shows of BRITs Week 24 for War Child sell out. It’s a testament to the band’s lasting appeal: most of the crowd have stuck with Ash for a long time, and we’ve crammed ourselves between these scarlet walls to catch a rare London appearance from the legendary trio for a very good cause.

Ash @ 100 Club as part of BRITs Week for War Child

Ash @ 100 Club as part of BRITs Week for War Child (Jed Cullen)
Ash @ 100 Club as part of BRITs Week for War Child (Jed Cullen)

Smashing chords and sunrise lights signal the opening of Like A God. There’s something Motörhead-lite in their performance, more aggressive and distorted than we remember with squealing guitar solos like tyres and garage ambiance. Their sound evoke memories but Ash are not anchored to their own past. Now, they’re much more overly rock but still with that class and smoothness that saturates their music and we stand rapt at the angst and chunky bass of Petrol. Vocalist Tim Wheeler bounces endlessly, his hair flopping to every beat. Jack Names The Planets, one of their earliest singles, fits seamlessly into their setlist, adding some necessary punk with just a dash of sweetness. Angel Interceptor seems to float in its own bubble outside of trends, separated with a gorgeous drop down bridge, laser guitar and spontaneous clapping along. We all recognise A Life Less Ordinary from it’s opening clips and clicks. It still contains so much charm and longing in the chorus, a song so simple but so fresh in its waves of resonance.

Wheeler mentions between songs that they’ve previously played in the area at the sadly missed Astoria on Charing Cross Road and the basement of Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street. Most chuckle in recognition, but two men leaning on the bar shout that they were there at those shows. Wheeler smiles at the well intentioned hecklers. While their newer songs, like the bass-heavy Confessions In The Pool with its straightforward springs and grungy enthusiasm, are well received, it’s the older singles which really rouse us. A seamless transition into Shining Light dredges up buried feelings with it’s piercing solos, and live it’s slower and more minimal with space to bask in the infinite purity of the belief in the lyrics. Crimson stage lights dazzle us as Ash keep the energy high with Kung Fu and there’s a dark innovation in how they perform it, a desire to offer something new in the a long predatory breakdown. Girl From Mars is simple but so perfect. Ash are straight faced and earnest and the intervening years have taken away none of the song’s potency. Hearing it feels like an achievement, and we unselfconsciously jump in between the teasing, rippling pauses.

They choose something old and something new to leave us with. Crashed Out Wasted features lighter, almost folky touch on the guitar, wisps of falsetto in Wheeler’s delicate singing and a triumphal ending. “We’ll be back with new music before too long as well,” promises Wheeler, leaving us with Burn Baby Burn. For three minutes we’re back in the rock clubs of our memories, properly dancing and celebrating the joy of still being able to hear our favourite songs played really loud. It’s pure joy, the kind you only seem to recall being part of but never experience in the present.

There is always a lingering worry when you see a band that ‘went away’ into the ether outside of public perception that they’ll just be playing off our collective nostalgia. Or, even worse, it’s revealed that they were never actually very good to begin with. Not so with Ash. Yes, the older singles do get the bigger cheers, but they’re tighter and more forceful now, playing to crowds who’ve taken their music to heart. Not only did they raise money for a worthy charity, Ash also reminded us just how good they really can be.

  • Ash @ 100 Club as part of BRITs Week for War Child
  • Ash @ 100 Club as part of BRITs Week for War Child
  • Ash @ 100 Club as part of BRITs Week for War Child
  • Ash @ 100 Club as part of BRITs Week for War Child
  • Ash @ 100 Club as part of BRITs Week for War Child
  • Ash @ 100 Club as part of BRITs Week for War Child
  • Ash @ 100 Club as part of BRITs Week for War Child
  • Ash @ 100 Club as part of BRITs Week for War Child
  • Ash @ 100 Club as part of BRITs Week for War Child
  • Ash @ 100 Club as part of BRITs Week for War Child
  • Ash @ 100 Club as part of BRITs Week for War Child

Review of Ash at the 100 Club as part of BRITs Week For War Child 2024 on 21st February 2024 by Kate Allvey, photography by Jed Cullen.

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