Richard Ashcroft at Royal Albert Hall
1st November at the Royal Albert Hall is certainly a starry night. The ceiling of the majestic venue is awash with rays of light reflected by the sequinned jacket of Richard Ashcroft, who enters the stage warmly welcomed by a full arena. The artist himself describes the concert as a “dangerous spread of love”: an affectionate hug to celebrate the glittering return of live rock music.
Just a few days ago Ashcroft announced the official release of Acoustic Hymns, Volume One. The new record features acoustic rearrangements of 12 songs chosen from the many outstanding works decorating his career, from the classics of The Verve to the hits that have marked his ascent as a solo artist. He is a man of few words on-stage, letting his perky character and the engaging music speak for him.
The show opens with Sonnet. Out of My Body is particularly fascinating thanks to beautiful harmonisation by the orchestra, who provide euphonious support for the frontman throughout the gig. Space and Time closes the first sequence with a burst of energy.
There are multiple seductive elements in the charming lullaby that is A Song for the Lovers. Ashcroft’s silvery voice caresses the verses, the words rolling smoothly over a mix of ballad, rock score and britpop tune. Over half of the audience is standing at this point, the simple setting creating a certain atmosphere, a spectacle that they are told “looks incredible from the stage”. The epic Velvet Morning and The Drugs Don’t Work couldn’t have been missed out of the setlist. A vibrant Hold On sends electrifying vibes through the concertgoers. Here, the vigorous combination of strings (violin and guitar) charges the song with renewed drive.
Acoustic Hymns, Volume One also celebrates a collaboration with another great voice, Liam Gallagher, for C’mon People (We’re Making It Now). Tonight, Ashcroft plays the tune on his own, as in the original, starting in a poetically acoustic mode, joined later by the rest of the performers for a crescendo to the finale.
The evening ends on a sweet – or rather bittersweet – note. Slowed down in pace, with enhanced orchestra and vocal elements, the fresh rearrangement of Bitter Sweet Symphony is glorious. With an effervescent singer, stirring lyrics and engaging melodies, this is truly a night to remember.
Photos: Mike Garnell
For further information and future events visit Richard Ashcroft’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Out of My Body here: