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Review: Ash at the 100 Club, London – Exhilarating Rock in a Legendary Venue

The three-piece delivered a storming set as part of BRITs Week for Warchild 24's series of one-off intimate gigs.

ash  club
Source: Jed Cullen

Ash returned to their rock roots at the 100 Club for BRITs Week for Warchild.

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History all-but drips off the walls of the 100 Club. It was in this sticky, intimate underground venue that the Sex Pistols cut their teeth, that Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Clash, the Damned, Buzzcocks, the Jam and the Stranglers all played as part of 1976’s first International Punk Festival. Thirty years before, as the Feldman Swing Club, it was host to jazz and swing legends including Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Art Pepper and Ronnie Scott. The Rolling Stones played a secret warm-up gig here in 1982, other legendary bands including The Specials, Oasis and Dr. Feelgood have all followed suit.

Fair to say there’s a sense of history about the place then. Not that Ash seemed overawed as they took the stage in a special BRITs Week for War Child 24 gig, as part of a series of shows by big-name bands in intimate venues around the country in the run up to the BRIT Awards on March 2.

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ash mark hamilton
Source: Jed Cullen

The 100 Club is one of London's most legendary rock venues.

After a three-decade career, they may no longer the bright-eyed teenagers of their 1996 No. 1 debut 1977, but on tonight’s showing Tim Wheeler’s outfit still have plenty of the fire and invention that made instant classics of tracks like “Angel Interceptor” and “Girl From Mars” 30-odd years ago.

They’ve also remained intact – bar guitarist/co-vocalist Charlotte Hatherley who left in 2006, the core trio of Wheeler, Mark Hamilton and Rick McMurray remains the same. And it shows: you don’t play in a band together for that long without getting tight.

There’s something fabulously old-school about seeing a big-name act have to push their way through the audience to the stage, and tonight Ash put on a determinedly no-frills, straight-up show that both paid homage to the venue’s heritage, and reminded the crowd that, despite some of their better-known, Radio 2-playlisted hits, they are, at heart, a rock outfit… and when they rock, they rock pretty hard.

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ash on stage
Source: Jed Cullen

Ash delivered an exhilarating, no-frills, bass-drums-guitar set.

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Support came from the promising Midlands four-piece Big Image, whose blend of dance rhythms, driving guitars and general air of euphoria lands somewhere between late Madchester and early Kasabian (in a good way), before Ash launched into an hour and a half of flat-out energy. “Like a God” from latest album Race the Night set the tone – a gloriously nasty slab of grungy, lo-fi rock, it was followed by three more breakneck numbers without a pause for breath, including a similarly heavy take on 1994’s "Jack Names the Planets" and “Petrol”, before Wheeler even addressed the crowd.

ash tim wheeler
Source: Jed Cullen

The early hits were given all the power and dynamism only ever hinted at on record.

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From then it’s a party. Early hits “Angel Interceptor”, “A Life Less Ordinary”, “Goldfinger” and “Oh Yeah” followed in quick succession and were given a power and dynamism only hinted at on record, and for the rest of the night, Ash delivered exactly what this series of War Child gigs promised: a chance to see a major band up close and personal, bass, guitar, drums played loud, and all within near-touching distance of the crowd. Such was the energy created that even the lesser-known tracks didn’t prompt the usual drift to the bar – it was all as dynamic, in-yer-face and exhilarating as a rock ‘n’ roll show should be, topped off by a euphoric double-whammy of 1977’s “Kung Fu” and “Girl From Mars”, before the inevitable encore closed with a furious, arms-in-the-air “Burn Baby Burn”.

Ash have always come across as a band that at heart yearn to be a full-on rock outfit but that keep accidentally writing radio-friendly hits. At the spiritual home of punk rock on Wednesday night, they showed that it is possible to marry the two.

ash mark hamilton  club
Source: Jed Cullen

Ash's hour-and-a-half-set was a thrilling example of what a rock 'n' roll show should be.

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BRITs Week for Warchild continues with the following gigs:

26th February - AURORA - Lafayette, London (support Jack Kane)

27th February - Gabriels - Ronnie Scott’s, London (very special surprise support)

28th February - Sleaford Mods - Scala, London

1st March - CMAT - Bush Hall, London (support act: Lorraine Bowen)

1st March - Venbee - Omeara, London (support act: A Little Sound)

4th March - The Last Dinner Party – The Trades Club, Hebden Bridge (support act: Rachel Chinouriri)


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