By Amrit Singh & Brandon Stosuy
While watching Verve’s main stage set last night we found ourselves wondering something we don’t usually wonder: What would it be like to live inside the head of Richard Ashcroft for a day? The lanky, impeccably cheekboned vocalist — who can easily pull off wearing a shirt opened to the bottom two buttons, all the better to make room for his gem-encrusted cross — has such an obvious god complex (does god swagger?), but manages to channel it in a way that you don’t hate him. It’s more like, “This man was born to be nothing but a rock star.” And we need more people like that. More of that rock pomposity in the age of MySpace and everyone-has-a-band, etc.
He started the set in appropriately dramatic action, giving a “this is music!” shout, before easing into the song of the same name and shifting into “Space In Time” and “Sonnet.” They focused on the hits: “Lucky Man,” “Life’s An Ocean,” and “The Drugs Don’t Work,” among others, but the song that received the biggest crowd swell was a dramatic, starry-sky “Bitter Sweet Symphony” (shooting star just before they hit the stage, true story, recalling “Hyperballad” last year). Ashcroft, who said he was leaving for Las Vegas after the set, dedicated the anthem to Hunter S. Thompson. With beers at $7 a pop and not being allowed outside the Beer Garden, we were way too far from the gonzo new-journalist’s mindset, but hey, why quibble.
They also performed the newish track “Sit And Wonder.” We stood and wondered why they’d bother with new material, since the crowd clearly wanted the old hits, but gods must create (or as Richard put it “new music is what this band does.”). It wasn’t horrible, but it felt labored, the bass-line self-consciously funky, and the overall structure less flowing than the rest of the set. It reminded us of Happy Mondays, basically, which in the end offered another opportunity for Ashcroft to prance and primp. Which is why you came to watch ‘em. Cue the smoke machine.
Click on for video of “Bittersweet Symphony,” and photos of Richard’s cheekbones.
[Photos by Amrit Singh]