Music review: Richard Ashcroft/Black Grape

Richard Aschcroft composes on an arena-friendly scale
Richard Aschcroft composes on an arena-friendly scale
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The musical nostalgia market makes for interesting bedfellows – in this case, 90s peers Black Grape, a ragtag, raucous band of punky indie funkateers, fronted by the incorrigible Shaun Ryder and rapping sidekick Kermit, supporting the infinitely soberer Richard Ashcroft, who has been brooding away at the MOR indie coalface without interruption for a quarter of a century.

Hydro, Glasgow ***

While his impish tourmates came out on top in terms of lithe, catchy new material, their chaotic bolshiness is better suited to a smaller, sweatier venue. Ashcroft, however, has always composed on an arena-friendly scale since his days fronting The Verve, the mildly stirring Sonnet providing a reminder of the band who paved the way for a series of inoffensive stadium acts peddling vacuous highs.

Ashcroft opened and closed his set wearing an uncharacteristically flashy sparkly jacket. It was a shame the music had little in the way of such lustre, mainly comprising introverted banal ballads and formulaic wouldbe epics with pre-recorded strings on tap.

Ashcroft is at his best when not straining too hard for gravity, as on the breezy A Song For the Lovers with its chilled, spacey coda and the light soul pop of Music Is Power which revved up to a wah-wah maelstrom.

However, the fans were here for the 90s indie anthems, mostly crammed into an acoustic encore. Ashcroft abruptly abandoned History when he fouled up a lyric, but The Drugs Don’t Work was potent in its stripped-back form before his band kicked in for the final catharsis.

FIONA SHEPHERD