Bucket Hats. Sunglasses. Denim Jackets. Welcome to 1997.

Richard Ashcroft returns to Manchester’s AO Arena for a victory lap of his career to date. Taking to the stage with a swagger, attitude and an air of arrogance. Ashcroft is an old fashioned rock star to put it simply. Opening with a buoyant , feel good number Surprised by the Joy taken from his album Natural Rebel (2018) is the perfect vehicle for Ashcroft to showcase the rock star that he is, sporting a signature corduroy bucket hat, denim jacket, guitar and of course, sunglasses. It’s almost a snap shot of Britain in the mid ’90s and a reminder of just how instrumental Richard Ashcroft was in founding that era of music.

It’s a striking image and a throwback to a time gone by when anyone could put on a jacket and sunglasses and feel like a rock star. Urban Hymns was a huge success because it is steeped in industrial origins, incredible live shows and a deep connection with it’s audience. Richard Ashcroft can always be associated with honesty, and that has been invaluable to him as a song writer, a sense of working class liberation some might say. The album veers from astonishing ballads to space rock and everything in between. It was the soundtrack to 1997 to be specific and one of the all time great British guitar albums.

An exquisite rendition of The Verve classic Sonnet follows the opener and from that moment onwards the crowd are under his spell. A handful of The Verve‘s finest work along with solo material follow. For the most part it was the tender moments that stole the show, The Drugs Don’t Work, Lucky Man, Space in Time and Song For the Lovers all delivered mass sing-alongs and phone lights twinkling throughout the arena.

With no agenda or promotional drive involved with tonight’s concert it was a ceremony of celebration for everything Ashcroft has achieved, highlighted with the set closer.

A highly predictable ending with Bittersweet Symphony was sung in unison by the 15,000 fans and perfectly highlights the longevity and the magnitude of The Verve and Richard Ashcroft as one of the biggest song writing mavericks of his generation. It’s one of those witness live moments everyone should try to experience.

Richard Ashcroft Live at Manchester’s AO Arena

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