F is for Falkirk – overstating the obvious perhaps, but crucial in the town’s rehabilitation as a live music destination. Why? Because Ash have decided that touring the UK in alphabetical order is, somehow, a good idea. And with Dundee and East Grange before them, Falkirk being next on the list is as logical as, er, Gloucester the following night.
This does allow Behind The Wall, a fair-sized pub in the town centre with an impressive live room upstairs, to go one step on from hosting a few local acts, and shoehorning a few hundred indie rock veterans to see one of the UK’s most enduring guitar bands.
And, as the crowd might have hoped if not expected, Ash reflect their history with what’s largely a greatest hits set, one which will recapture similarly packed and sweaty nights at more conventional Scottish venues such as King Tuts.
BTW is typical in that (1) it’s hard enough to see the stage and (2) it boasts an abnormally high ratio of tall, 30-something blokes to block any view of the band. We can just about see that Messrs Wheeler, Hamilton and McMurray are onstage, and, frankly, loving it – the return to intimate venues clearly agreeing with the trio.
As suggested, the setlist reads like the tracklisting to a best of compilation – ‘Arcadia’ to start, then via a ‘Life Less Ordinary’ to ‘Orpheus’ (though, to my personal horror, omitting ‘Angel Interceptor’).
Perhaps due to their trimmed-down lineup – Charlotte Hatherley now with Bat For Lashes – the three lads have found it easy to return to their roots as what is basically a punk trio. So oldies mix, fairly easily with more recent material, and ‘Jack Names The Planets’ and a rumbustious ‘Kung Fu’ are wheeled out, while new tunes such as ‘Joy Kicks Darkness’ with its military drumbeat, stand alongside the classics.
With the Falkirk crowd mainly diehard fans there’s enthusiasm for what the band are premiering tonight, but the reaction when ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘Girl From Mars’ strike up seems overwhelming enough to raze the stage down to the ground floor.
‘Return Of White Rabbit’ – the first of the ‘A-Z’ of singles – closes what’s been a epic 20-song set, but with a crowd clamouring for more of ‘The Hits’, the band return with 4 more including ‘Petrol’ and ‘Burn Baby Burn’, leaving the locals hungry for more local gigs, and sending Ash on the next installment of their journey with part ‘F’ of their journey having met the approval of the local Bairns.
* A word for support the Panama Kings, Ulster countrymates who are tagging along the entire tour and are very worthy of your attention if you get there early enough.