Ash, Warwick University, Friday, February 23

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And then there were three…

Forget lectures on Shakespeare or pre-Raphaelite art, tonight Ash have returned to the nation’s universities to dish out an even more important lesson – that of guitar-pop survival. Chairing this sonic further education is Tim Wheeler, with an awe-inspiring presentation on Hatherley-less guitar soloing. In fact, as the trio burn through well-known classics such as ‘A Life Less Ordinary’ and ‘Girl From Mars’, you have to shoot double-takes to see if there are still just the five fingers on each hand, or if he has somehow learned to use his nostrils to provide backing vocals. Way more exciting, though, is the selection of new material which, far from being back-to-basics stuff, is actually starting new fires of tuneful invention. Standing out and reaching furthest is the epic and astonishing pre-encore showstopper ‘In Hell’ which begins life as a twinkling ballad, but blows itself out like a collapsing prog-rock constellation. To put it bluntly then, this is quite simply the best thing to come out of Northern Ireland since the ceasefire, and proves that Ash are as far away from being burnt out as ever. Take that Hatherley. Class. Is. Dismissed.

Hardeep Phull