Ash & Indoor Pets, The Wedgewood Rooms Portsmouth, 16th September 2021
Originally scheduled to take place at the Portsmouth Pyramids back in March 2020 (literally two days after the country went into lockdown 1.0), tonight’s show is the second of a two-date residency taking place at the revamped Wedgewood Rooms. After several attempts at rescheduling these shows, we’re finally able to celebrate Ash’s long-delayed tour in support of their recent compilation, Teenage Wildlife: 25 Years of Ash – a career spanning best of that showcases the band’s hits and more. But was it worth the wait?
First up we have Indoor Pets, a spiky four piece from Kent. Having not heard them before, I checked out a few tracks from their recent album Be Content, and I wasn’t overly impressed. However, they are a totally different experience live. Indoor Pets are a band that have plenty of good songs at their disposal that showcase a knack for writing a decent pop hook, but when experienced live, the band’s songs are played with a heavier sense of urgency transforming them into something completely different. Something weirder and much more engaging than on record, so be sure to check them out if they’re playing a town near you soon.
So now for the main event. Three things become apparent to my eye throughout Ash’s set. One, bassist Mark Hamilton doesn’t look a day older than when I first saw them at this venue back in 1997. Two, frontman Tim Wheeler is incapable of not smiling (he clearly loves his job, which is great to see after such a long career) and three, drummer Rick McMurray has the best posture of any drummer I have ever seen. Aside from these observations though there’s not much else happening on stage, so it’s up to the tunes to do the talking tonight.
Ash kick things off with a fine version of Goldfinger, a song dripping with nostalgia and one that helps transport the room back to a time when we didn’t have to worry about deadly viruses and a never-ending sense of doom. The band then launch into another one of their undeniable gems Oh Yeah, and from there it’s just hit after hit really.
Orpheus – a single from 2004 album Meltdown that begins with the line, ‘Yeah, that summer I did nothing’ – feels oddly topical considering current events. It also has one of the most infectious choruses the band have penned to date. It’s then time for the lesser known but yet still decent enough later singles to shine. Here the set drags somewhat, but it doesn’t take long before we’re back into full-on banger territory.
We have A Life Less Ordinary, which is dedicated to a friend of the band who has recently gotten engaged (aww), followed by Petrol, Lose Control (including the TIE Fighter sample that will always take me back to the time I first heard 1977 on cassette as I waited in my parents’ car whilst they went food shopping) concluding with an extended version of fan favourite Kung Fu before the break.
We’re then treated to a cover of The Undertones’ Teenage Kicks followed swiftly by arguably the band’s most loved song Girl from Mars. Things come to a satisfying end with Burn Baby Burn (a song that I think does miss the addition of a second guitarist) and as the lights stay low, Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes’ (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life plays over the PA. Rick treats the crowd to a little dance before the band wave goodbye, and we leave with smiles that could almost rival Tim’s.
So, was it worth the wait? Oh yeah.
Words by Ryan Howarth
Photos by Hannah Mesquitta
26th September 2021