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Live Review: Richard Ashcroft – 1st November 2021 – Royal Albert Hall, London, UK

5 min read

Celebrating the recent release of his brand new album, Acoustic Hymns Vol. 1, singer-songwriter and 2 time Ivor Novello winning artist Richard Ashcroft has been stretching his legs and guitar strings over the last month with a series of shows around the UK; his first in some time as a result of everyone’s favourite global pandemic. But as we discovered at last night’s performance inside the Royal Albert Hall, one of London’s, and the worlds, most grandeur and spectacular music venues, the dust has far from gathered on the British superstar as he clearly has found comfort being back on the road.

Acoustic Hymns Vol 1 is a collection of recordings from the vaults of Ashcroft’s lucrative and globally celebrated song writing career as both a solo star and frontman of The Verve, and following two sold out shows at the London Palladium in mid-October, last night’s performance was always geared up to be one of significant importance; if not purely for the location.

Having long solidified his position as a renowned songwriter, hearing such a prolific set list performed in acoustic form and within such a renowned and acoustically generous venue like the Royal Albert Hall was real treat for fans; many of those having followed Ashcroft’s career in The Verve and solo form from the very beginning. While only 14 tracks were performed, each were lengthy versions making it a showcase of quality over quantity and there was certainly plenty of the latter with the set balanced evenly between songs from the hitmakers solo career and his time in his chart topping 90’s band.

Urban Hymns put Ashcroft on the musical map do it seemed fitting that a large portion of last night’s set paid tribute to that iconic ten-million seller of ‘97 with each of the singles plucked from that record finding a nesting place during the set; Sonnet cracking the lid on a momentous evening of hits at just shy of 9pm with the star announcing to the crowd “This ones called Sonnet! Here we go – let’s tear the roof off” before kicking the night off, followed up by the drum thumping Out of my Body and acoustically vibrant, Space and Time.

Describing the night as “a serious mass love spreading event” before his performance of Weeping Willows, he couldn’t be more accurate; the venue – made up of predominantly middle aged men whose heyday was no doubt spent listening to The Verve and fellow Brit pop acts like Oasis and Blur – poured out their masculine admiration for their shaggy haired idol through fist pumps in the air and belting of lyrics back to the outgoing icon.

Nostalgia filled the venue when it came to The Drugs Don’t Work. Richard and his band, who were like a Britpop fratpack, owned the stage for the number – one of the clear standouts of the night – alongside a backing orchestra who created a rich and almost cinematic vein to the majority of songs played. The melancholic hit was played to perfection and sounded like it had been plucked straight from Urban Hymns for this incredibly special Albert Hall performance.

Lucky Man added a further nostalgic seasoning to the set before a solo Ashcroft took to the stage to offer a stripped back acoustic rendition of C’mon People (We’re Making It Now); all eight spotlights centred on the musician as he held the entire audiences attention. With a run through of Music Is Power – a quick dedication of the track to a punters 80 year old mother who was in the audience – it was Bittersweet Symphony – complete with cellos, violins and Ashcroft’s son on guitar – that closed the night in spectacular 90’s fashion.

With a confident swagger to his step and dressed in a black T-shirt, loose jeans, white trainers and a sparkly silver jacket that his wife made him and that he admitted during the set as “retiring” after last nights show, Ashcroft generously sauntered through his weighty back catalogue; pacing himself with a relaxed and focussed demeanour as if performing within one of the world’s most famous concert spaces was all in a casual day’s work; unphased by the crowds enthusiastic calls that would periodically echo throughout the venue as they took to their feet from the nights opening chord right through to the final numbers classically tinged note.

Whether it was through sombre slow burners like The Drugs Don’t Work or orchestral giants like Bittersweet Symphony, musically and lyrically it’s was blatantly evident why Ashcroft is a double Ivor Novello recipient. His music speaks to people and those people were very present at last night’s stunning performance to lap up whatever the hit maker was willing to deliver. The last time I saw Richard Ashcroft was at T In The Park festival some 12-13 years ago and I remember coming away from that performance knowing I had seen something special. Last night I came away truly mesmerised and exhilarated from watching a true great of the industry in his element.

Set list:
Sonnet (The Verve song)
Out of My Body
Space and time
A Song for the Lovers
Weeping Willow (The Verve song)
One Day (The Verve song)
Break the Night With Colour
Velvet Morning (The Verve song)
The Drugs Don’t Work (The Verve song)
Lucky Man (The Verve song)
C’mon People (We’re Making It Now)
Music is Power
Bitter Sweet Symphony (The Verve song)