Empire Gig Review...
Ash, Lafaro, The Plea
Donegal band The Plea have to cope with the embarrassment of hitting the stage to encounter a dead amp. Gary Doherty offers a polite 'excuse us for a minute',ï¿½while the pressing of buttons and checking of wires is accompanied by shaking heads. Thankfully, aï¿½passing LaFaro turns up as the rescue service, and loans an amp.
Normal service resumes, and The Plea are worth the wait. They open with a blistering delivery of 'Praise Be' and do more than enough over a short set to register. Their sound has something of U2 and Stereophonics; the songs excite and they have a front man with presence. They should do well and are worth catching at Oxygen, Glasgowbury, or wherever else they turn up.
LaFaro are in danger going through bass players like Spinal Tap go through drummers (although in the interests of accuracy, LaFaro bassists don't explode, they simply retire). Cover is needed while the band look to recruit their third post holder, and a temporary replacement is found in Cahir from Fighting With Wire, playing a blinder on the bass. The band are tight, the sound is good, and LaFaro noise bombs shake The Empire.
Jonny LaFaro reckons that 95% of the punters don't know the band, but clearly does himself an injustice. The front end of the crowd certainly seem to know the material, and enjoy it. Heads will bang. With LaFaro you get what you expect: uncomplicated basic rock, big riffs played fast and loud. 'Tupenny Nudger' comes over particularly well, but nothing drags in their energetic set.
Ash come on stage minus drummer Rick McMurray, who is off on paternity leave, Alan LaFaro standing in to bang drums. The crowd are locked in from the start, singalongs on the go from a few tracks in when we hit 'Girl From Mars' and 'Goldfinger'. While an emergency drummer can't be expected to have as light a touch across the Ash canon as Rick, the LaFaro loaner does incredibly well in keeping a solid pulse behind the songs.
The interesting question tonight is about how well the self-released A-Z material will stand up against the Ash power pop back catalogue. It's always good to hear 'A Life Less Ordinary', and 'Kung Fu' lifts the roof as usual. While the A-Z material is less well known, 'Joy Kicks Darkness' earns its place with a glorious lead break, 'Arcadia' and 'Dionysian Urge' also standing up well in comparison to the Ash big hitters.
There has been a lot of sharing: The Plea use a LaFaro amp, LaFaro have the loan of a fully animated Cahir, and pass Alan LaFaro on to Ash. After one guitar change Tim lets us know that he's playing a loaner from The Plea. We learn two things from tonight- it's good to share, and stuff from A-Z can shuffle up beside the best of Ash without embarrassment. The band close out an encore with an extended and reverberating blast of 'Return ofï¿½ White Rabbit'. Tim promises they'll be back, and we look forward to the next homecoming of the hard-rocking bunny.