Richard Ashcroft made his triumphant return to New York a day after releasing his latest solo effort, RPA and the United Nations of Sound. The crowd were held enthralled by Ashcroft as he played the first of only two US shows. Ashcroft was last around three years ago with The Verve but this was a chance to catch Ashcroft in the very intimate confines of Bowery Ballroom. Before Ashcroft hit the stage, The Postelles opened and fans packed the building, eager to see this charismatic character of rock and roll perform.
Ashcroft walked on stage with his backing band, dubbed the United Nations of Sound, and proceeded to work his rock magic on the crowd. With The Verve, Ashcroft was the embodiment of serpentine cool. Shamanistic, some have said. As Ashcroft walked onto the stage, that aura oozed out of every pore and swallowed the crowd. The man channeled the music, which was bombastic, with plenty of hip-hop influences. Ashcroft at times had the swagger of an MC, with plenty of posturing and sweet vocals.
Read more of the review, a full setlist, photos and a review of The Postelles below
Ashcroft kicked off the evening with “R U Ready” and “Born Again” showcasing this new sound. Amidst the hip-hop sounds, the lead guitar attack was potent with great charging solos. Ashcroft professed his love for New York, his favorite city, and took this opportunity to play in the city where he recorded the album with the eagerness of an upstart musician. Despite all his success, the music was what controlled Ashcroft. “Lucky Man” showed up early, giving fans a tender, nostalgic trip.
The new songs were culled from a plethora of inspirations and genres. From Funkadelic and Sergio Leone for “America” or more soul with “Beatitudes” it was mesmerizing to watch Ashcroft channel different genres with his great vocals. String samples provided great texture to some songs as well. It was a constant exploration into music that Ashcroft strives for. Throughout his career, the constant pushing of a cultural search, music was the tool Ashcroft used to unearth treasure. Sure, Ashcroft could have laid low and rested on his laurels. But he hasn’t and he’s still making music that engages him as an artist.
It would not have mattered to the fans what Ashcroft played, they were grateful he was there. No shouts for “Bittersweet Symphony” or anything else. A fan’s request for “On a Beach,” he was shouting it from the beginning of the set, was rewarded with an impromptu acoustic version. The encore saw a beautiful rendition of “Sonnet” as well as a surprising take on “Lonely Soul” from UNKLE, on which Ashcroft had contributed vocals.
As the night closed with “Royal Highness” and “Break the Night,” we are left with no questions about Ashcroft’s commitment. Ashcroft delivered an engaging performance that was at times ready for the arena and at other times right at home in this intimate setting. It’s easy to see why Ashcroft’s fans are loyal and ardent supporters. Ashcroft refuses to be stuck in the past and instead pushes forth with deliberate intent.
Richard Ashcroft Setlist
R U Ready¬†
Music Is Power¬†
How Deep Is Your Man?¬†
Let My Soul Rest¬†
This Thing Called Life¬†
Check The Meaning¬†
Why Not Nothing ¬†
On A Beach ¬†
Break the Night¬†
Before Ashcroft came on stage, local boys The Postelles delivered an engaging set built on pure pop-rock. The band have the chops to create memorable hooks fueled by the traditions of rock. Songs like “123 Stop” are tightly-wound and engaging pop gems that are polished while retaining some ragged charm. There’s a genuine quality to the band and their songs, giving fans a chance to let their guard down.
The band’s set consisted of songs off their self-titled debut album as well as a new track. The Postelles have a great stage presence and let their music do the posturing. The second half of the set was a fun blast that featured “Hey Little Sister,” “Sleep on the Dance Floor,” “White Night,” and closed with “Can’t Stand Still.” The band’s a gateway to a fun night, reminiscent of a car ride with friends on the weekend. No care in the world and freedom at your fingertips.