Lemmy once said “If you didn’t do anything that wasn’t good for you it would be a very dull life”. Gigs – at least the best ones – usually fall into that category, what with ringing in the ears, near toxic mislabelled drinks and the omnipresent chance of getting a stray elbow in the face. As everyone has been painfully aware though concerts were one of the first organised events to be deemed too risky in the current health crisis, a decision which has meant in Europe at least that pretty much everybody has been off the road for what feels like forever.
Sometimes though you just have to find a way – and Ash are used to beating the odds. The trio burst out of unfashionable Northern Ireland in the mid 90’s, joyfully micro dosing pop into their Nirvana/Ramones influenced mosharama and recording their to be platinum debut album 1977 whilst still at school.
If anything was a good reason for a party, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the release which made them household names and touring buddies with the likes of Weezer and the Foo Fighters would be it. But the man said no, which meant a next best option was needed. Idea: a live stream with a difference.
Having not even met in person for well over a year in the band’s eyes the only way to do this was bringing the fans an experience as close being with them as they could. This meant a week of rehearsals – and a setlist containing rarities that had been mostly unplayed in decades.
Whilst there’s not a lot you can do with the formula – you can either play them in order or mix ’em up – there are still levels. You’re first struck by how front man Tim Wheeler appears to be defying the ageing process, but then soon after at just how taut and flawlessly represented these songs played live are, snatches of muscle memory from a thousand sets imprinted into the band’s collective consciousness like plans for the Death Star.
Sure, the hits – Kung Fu, The Girl From Mars, Angel Interceptor, Goldfinger – are all there and sound great, but the bonus material is also highly watchable, from contemporary b-sides (Sneakers, Coasting), niche covers (Punk Boy, Lasergun Nun’s Silver Surfer) to American Devil, the last song their forerunners Vietnam were responsible for. There’s also a Making of..documentary featuring snatches of archive footage.
Cynics might say there are aspects here which are better than real concerts: nobody’s talking all the way through, there’s no dodgy merchandise outside and you won’t have to wait an hour afterwards for a taxi. But in the flesh, up close, sweat and sonic trauma rock n’ roll is good for you, Lemmy says. Until we can all have that again, this is the next best thing.
You can order a stream of Ash playing 1977 in full and other rarities here.