Tuesday, 24 November 2009

The Keep Pop Loud Tour of Yorkshire - Part 2

The somewhat grandiosely named Keep Pop Loud Tour Of Yorkshire began again in earnest on 11th November and once again saw our fearless adventurer (that'd be me) venture outside of his adopted home-town of Sheffield and head for the wilds of Rotherham.

OK, so it's not that far and the quick car journey preceded us quickly finding the venue, that up until we actually saw it, had doubts over it's existence. Not that we didn't trust Ash, of course, it was simply because none of us found very much information about The Vault on the internet. Anyway: Ash. My fourth time seeing the band, and it was certainly the smallest venue yet (the biggest being when they supported The Darkness at Wembley Arena in '04), to the extent that the centre of what passed for a stage had a beam hanging so low that not one member of Ash could stand there. Furthermore, the central part of the room was divided down the middle by a ruddy wall, giving a somewhat unconventional gig set up.

If you've ever seen Ash at any point across their fifteen-year-plus then you'll know that they're a phenomenal force live and thankfully, since last seeing them they've ditched the backing sampler, for most of the set – which had been providing backing vocals, string sections, extra guitar bits and keyboards – and powered through a veritable greatest hits set as a three piece rock group. Having had such a tremendous career it's pretty difficult to play a set that doesn't miss out massive chunks, and although some great moments didn't make that Wednesday's setlist what did make it was very much the cream of the bands career.

They opened with the opener to their classic album, 1977, 'Lose Control' and followed it with 'A Life Less Ordinary' and 'Meltdown'. Now, there's a couple of reasons why I'm not going to recount their setlist, song for song (memory being one) but highlights did include 'Angel Interceptor', 'Orpheus', 'Oh Yeah', 'Starcrossed' and of course the Big Three: 'Girl From Mars', 'Burn Baby Burn' and 'Shining Light'. Four songs from the current A-Z Series were also aired, these being the first three ('True Love 1980', 'Joy Kicks Darkness' and 'Arcadia') and the forthcoming 'Space Shot', all of which sounded excellent.

Being such an intimate venue for a band that have sold a more than respectable amount of records across their time, the atmosphere was a little electric and the crowd varied. There's few bands today that seem to draw a crowd that varies from young teenagers to much older fans and includes such a high proportion of women. Also present, according to my eagle eyes (and double checked on twitter) was Subways bassist and all round indie goddess Charlotte Cooper. Phwar! Lastly, in case anyone is intersted; support at the gig came from Panama Kings who were definitely on the better side of average.

Although the KPL ToY was to take a break, it came to my attention that a certain Victoria Hesketh was to be participating in the turning on of the Sheffield Christmas Lights (22nd November). Now, I'm a Scrooge as much as the next guy, but if there's one thing that I cannot turn down, it's a Little Boots performance. Therefore imagine my delight when it also transpires that Alphabeat are due to be present too. It was poptastic goodness that even the bitter freezing cold couldn't scare me away from.

Before we got to the good stuff however we stood enduring local radio 'DJs', from the station that was putting on the switch-on as well as some less than brilliant performances. Mini Viva's generic disco-pop was inoffensive enough and preceded a partialy-mimed (as to be expected from this type of event) performance from a member-missing Alphabeat. The 'beat treated us to three tracks which were the underwhelming recent single 'The Spell', decent sounding newbie 'Hole In My Heart' and the chart slaying joy of 'Fascination', all of which featured live vocals and the epiphany that Anders SG is basically Michael Cera with a tambourine.

Finally, after standing though Beverly Knight (she sampled Orange Juice, apparently) and the token festive-ness (not a fan, on both accounts) we got our Little Boots, who as always was a complete star. Even though the lady was singing karaoke style to a backing track on a windy stage in front of City Hall, quite clearly not wanting to be there; she gave it her all. I've said before that Victoria Hesketh is a proper star and I stand by that after said performance. 'New In Town', 'Earthquake' and 'Remedy' are some of the greatest pieces of pop brilliance from the decade and they went some way to warming up a freezing cold Sheffield. It may have been worth standing in the cold for, but the cup of tea that was demanded upon arrival home was never more welcome.

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