Today's word is surreal...This was one of those very surreal nights. Surreal in many ways. Firstly, there's the stage set - all stripped trees and lighting. Then, there's all the little bits of samples dropped in between songs, almost like a live recreation of those bits bands and producers stick in to amuse themselves. And then there's the very surreal moment when 1000 or so poor English punters are left scratching their heads at Tim Wheeler's quoting of a Norn Irish football chant.
The Guildhall is, to put it into a local context, a smaller Ulster Hall, but the same sort of vibe - the big high ceiling, the relatively wide stage and a balcony at the back. And back to the surreal, because it is always strange seeing local lads doing well on a foreign field, and Ash have got the back catalogue to do well indeed. From belting out hits such as 'A Life Less Ordinary' and 'Clones', and 'I Started A Fire'(accompanied by the, yes, surreal site of a traffic cone being waved about in the crowd), it's easy to forget how good Ash have been over the years, because to us lot they're a bunch of lads from down the road. But hell, they're good with it, even throwing in a little surf medley "because we're on the coast."
'Kung Fu' is fabulous, it's grown up, matured, and more than just a teenage kick while 'Blacklisted' is similarly powerful. Old favourite 'Oh Yeah' is greeted like, well like an old favourite, and like Kung Fu it's aged well. And now we re-enter the Twilight Zone, as, spotting a Northern Ireland football flag, Mr Wheeler breaks out into a smile before exclaiming 'We're not Brazil, we're Northern Ireland.' Cue bemused locals, and much cheering from the half a dozen or so followers of Our Wee Country, who are then pleased as 'Girl From Mars' rapidly follows. Ending the main part of the set is recent album title track 'Twilight of The Innnocents.'
The encore is wonderfully high octane with 'Vampire Love' making an appearance before 'Burn Baby Burn' sets us alight to end the night.