Review by David Stone with Photography by Jessica Stone

Northern Irish rockers Ash were greeted by a packed crowd as they took to the stage of Bristol’s hottest new music venue on Friday 19th October.

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The trio screamed – sometimes literally! – through a 20+ song set at SWX to promote their latest album Islands, released back in May.

This show was my first experience of SWX, a club that’s been in Bristol for a while under various guises, but one that has only really come to prominence as a live music venue for rock acts since being taken over by the Electric Group – the company that runs Electric Brixton – late last year.

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They’ve done a heck of a job with it. On walking in, the whole place shines with a unique, neon feel and the layout makes for an excellent atmosphere. Visibility is great, with raised walkways/standing areas on each side of the dancefloor and as long as you’re not trapped at the very back – or directly behind someone much taller – you should be able to find a spot where you can see comfortably.

Support this evening came from Norwegian Garage Rockers Death By Unga Bunga, who’ll leave a lasting impression on you from the very first moment they grace a stage. Presenting with uber-classic-rock dress sense and infectious energy, the quintet delivered powerful vintage pop-rock with all the face-melting guitar solos and air-kicking, in-your-face delivery you could ask for.

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Their on-stage antics wrapped up with a bit of synchronised behind-the-head guitar riffing to the tune of Thin Lizzy’s The Boys are Back in Town, and by the end there’s no doubt they’d won the attention of the early doors crew.

With a fresh haze cast across the stage, the lights went out and the headliners launched right into a 90 minute set, leading with True Story – the first track off the new record. Something new and fresh to open up, immediately followed by classic Ash track Kung Fu to get the room bouncing!

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The trio continued that pattern throughout the evening, pairing new tracks with old hits to keep the energy high, stopping only occasionally to drop in a bit of context.

On the topic of context, here’s an example courtesy of frontman Tim Wheeler:  Did you know A Life Less Ordinary is now ‘old enough to drink in America’?

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Sorry, what? That’s impossible, right? Nope. 21 years old! Really!

There’s a livestream of this gig (<< click this link) and this moment is great because when the song’s announced it’s not your usual ‘YAYYYYYYY’  from the crowd – there’s a distinct undertone of ‘WHAAAAAA’, the sound of a whole bunch of people coming to the realisation that time really heckin’ flies, man!

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That’s what’s so wonderful about Ash though: A band that provided the soundtrack to much of my teenage years rockin’ up in Bristol in my thirties and putting together a cohesive set that traverses everything from the classics like Oh Yeah and Shining Light to the new and undeniably different tracks like Confessions in the Pool, all the while still sounding like Ash.

That’s pretty magical.

Setlist:
True Story
Kung Fu
Cocoon
Annabel
Oh Yeah
Confessions in the Pool
A Life Less Ordinary
Goldfinger
[Brief interlude of Cantina Band]
Angel Interceptor
Shining Light
All That I have Left
Jesus Says
Incoming Waves
Orpheus
Numbskull
Buzzkill
Girl From Mars
Burn Baby Burn

Encore:
Walking Barefoot
Lose Control

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