Monday, 14 January 2008

The Verve @ The O2 - 13th December 2007

This article originally appeared on the peerless (yet now sadly defunct) It's owners are now Suburban Tarts, who should be visited post-haste...

2007 has been a year full of reunions, and not all of them have been great. On hearing of the reformation of one of Britpop's leading lights, this author was initially sceptical. It's been a very very long ten years, after all. But initial signs were hopeful. October saw the release of the band's first music in over a decade, the epic Thaw Sessions which sounded like the sonic craziness that launched their career way back in 1993. After a series of smaller gigs in early November, the band tonight return to the place where they truly belong: in front of a crowd of screaming nutters.

Ten years of occasionally brilliant yet often mediocre solo work has done nothing to blunt Richard Ashcroft's attitude, nor his phenomenally powerful voice. Replete with new short-and-bleached haircut and aviator sunglasses that seem welded to the bridge of his nose, he swaggers his way through an 18-song set featuring only one new number (Sit and Wonder – which sounds very promising in case you're sitting and wondering) and heavily laden with all the best material from their two best known studio recordings. Barnstorming versions of This is Music and Rolling People are interspersed with tender interludes, most notably an acoustic version of Sonnet, which climaxes with Ashcroft making matchwood of his acoustic guitar.

Predictably, the loudest cheers are saved for the songs like Bitter Sweet Symphony and The Drugs Don't Work which close the main set (prompting a few know-nothings to leave in order to warm up the Mondeo and get home for a quick Horlicks before bed) but as a whole this is a remarkable performance, particularly at its end, when the band rip through two of their finest numbers – History and Come On – to leave the ears ringing with feedback. At times I had to pinch myself, wondering if it was true that I was really watching these songs I had never expected I would be lucky enough to see live when the band dissolved ignominiously in 1997. This is the sound of one of the most important bands of the last twenty years still on top of their game. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and many hearts will doubtless start to beat faster when the inevitable rumours of new albums and of headline slots at Glasto 08 begin to surface.

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