Richard Ashcroft at the Roundhouse
In the mesmerising venue of the Roundhouse, Richard Ashcroft proves that “music is power” when at the close of the evening Bitter Sweet Symphony is accompanied by hundreds of voices and hands swaying in unison, bathed in silvery light. He gives his soul to the crowd and they love him for it.
The show begins with a very different Ashcroft to his 90s Verve incarnation. His iconic black mullet is shaved off, he wears a fitted suit, sunglasses, a silk scarf and a gas mask. He opens in a burst of energy with Out of My Body, which combines sombre lyrics with an electronic breeziness that perfectly matches the modernistic strobe lighting. The night is split into two halves. In the first it feels as if he is not completely himself, instead impersonating other performers, as if he needs to give the crowd more show and entertainment rather than honesty, which is a shame because when he loses this façade he is brilliant. At times, he reduces the power of his older tracks by unnecessarily extending the songs with excessive guitar riffs or simply just repeating the chorus over and over; there are only so many times he can sing “music is the power”.
The real man appears after a short interval and change of clothes into 90s gear. He even takes off his shoes in homage to the barefoot performances of his past. This is what the audience came for, as he lifts up his acoustic guitar the crowd’s excitement is visible: one man even feels the need to throw off his shoes. Lonely Soul exudes cool; he unleashes the power of his rich and raw voice on tracks such as A Song for the Lovers and Lucky Man, which has audience members crying.
The evening is a rendition of his life’s work and himself. It is a cathartic experience to witness him at his best among a crowd who worship him. He may have taken a considerable career break, but he has returned just as good if not better than his former self. He gave the fans what they wanted, despite the slow start. Hopefully from the crowd’s reaction there will be more.
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
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