Ash kick off their UK tour in fine pop-rockin' style...

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Ash: Portsmouth Pyramid Centre

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Ash: Portsmouth Pyramid Centre

Opening night of a brand new tour, and havoc is being wreaked on both tonight’s running order and the bass player’s guts. Both are in considerable turmoil with – as you’d expect – the latter providing the most spillage.

But what do we care? We are the kids and we’re at the seaside. It’s sort of

nearly summer and we demand to be rocked. Bring on the Ash! In for the kill from the off, Downpatrick’s lost souls rip into ‘Girl From Mars’, tearing out the hearts of the first few rows of hungry teens in the process. A second swathe comes with ‘Burn Baby Burn’. Just six minutes in and Ash can no longer do any wrong. Good work.

So what do you want? Hits? All present and correct. Everything from ‘Jack Names The Planets’ to ‘Shining Light’ is chucked into the mix, with stops at every delicious station en route. ‘Kung Fu’, slashed into new shape by Charlotte Hatherley’s fevered guitar crunching, is as close to the perfect punk-pop formula as you’re going to get… unless you’re The Undertones and you’re playing ‘Teenage Kicks’, of course.

A touch of tenderness crowbars itself into the set with the great ‘Free All Angels’ opener ‘Walking Barefoot’, and the very first live airing of ‘Pacific Palisades’ declares a pensive side to Ash that would generally tend to get obscured behind all the cartoon stuff. There’s a long wait between the main set and the encores. Mark has hightailed it to the bogs for a ten-minute chunder break, and presumably the rest of the band have got their marker pens out and are trying to work out what songs they have not yet played. ‘Lose Control’, ‘Numbskull’ and – joy! – ‘Petrol’ are pulled out of the hat to keep the customers satisfied.

It’s easy to forget just how great a pop band we have in Ash – until, that is, you’re reminded by a dazzling display like this. They’ll be lighting up the festivals this summer, for sure. Stereophonics and pals – prepare to start crapping yourselves.

Andy Barding