The Verve - Nottingham Arena.
Live Review

The Verve – Nottingham Arena.

Verve are back ready or not!

After seeing their recent London Roundhouse gig through mind-numbing beer goggles, my memories of that magical reformation gig are still quite hazy, owing for the band group-hugging on stage and seeming genuinely happy and at one once again, Richard Ashcroft (RA) smoking a spliff on stage and me going on a spanking rampage on the underground with a shiny black spatula (long story) on the way away were all the images that stuck. With tickets costing £30+, paying to see ‘em twice must seem like madness to most, but what’s a goon of a guy to do? I first saw Verve 15 years ago and apparently I’m not quite ready to quit just yet. Anyhoo, last nights gig, what of it Ant what of it? In no particular or complete order then, here’s what’s still floating around the red and grey of my mind.

RA has bleached his hair Andy Warhol yellow, which I’m sure must be the genius of RAs deranged coke dealer or some such sinister input. Ooh did I say that? Surely RA just enjoys a smoke now and then, right? On last nights evidence no siree. Donning sunglasses throughout the gig to hide his ‘piss-holes in the snow’ eyes that were visible on the big screen, RA posed this way and that to maximise the stadium rock effect to its fullest. With each band member having an individual giant screen backdrop to compliment this corporate U2 style affair, the chills were running up and down my spine regardless of the venue.

Nick McCabe (NM) & (HOORAY) dressed like a swat team member and did his thing as awesomely as ever, even taking time out to sign/telepathically chat a lady audience member up, Simon Jones (SJ) still had the same inspiring passion and fire he showed in London and Pete Salisbury (PS) seemed, he seemed a bit pissed off throughout to be honest and didn’t let his charismatic smile break once and I’m sure that RA goofing didn’t help either. Musically, Verve were fantastic, though they did manage to suck all the life out of ‘On Your Own’ and ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ which alarmingly ended with RA doing a high pitch Karl Denver style croon of an “oooh” instead of singing the familiar “never coming down now I’m never coming down… outro lyrics.

‘Let the Damage Begin’, a superb ‘This Is Music’ flipside pleasingly crashed its way around the Icehouse and the 70% confused 30% glee struck audience it accommodated. Keeping within the same time frame/LP, ‘History’ was undeniably the low point of the night, no, of Verves career (owing for the splitting etc) when RA…wait for it, forgot the words, something unheard of to the best of my knowledge (Pesky drugs) and his applaud drowned, almost empty apology at the close of the track didn’t help much, he said something like “Missed a big fucking chunk of the song out there, sorry guys we’re only human, that’s live performances for you”. Rich coming from someone who’s been walking ‘round like he’s some kind of angel all night.

Highpoint of the night whilst I’m cleverly hinting at it was hearing ‘Already There’ which restored some hope and a glimpse of the yesteryears Verve who are thankfully trapped somewhere under all the changes that time has inevitably brought about. RA urgently yelping and howling like he aint done in a long time was worth the ticket price alone, roughly, though the aura and presence of the band as a whole was simply sublime to witness through such an early classic.

Although it honestly didn’t come off live too well, it was also nice to see Verve perform the NM penned track ‘Neon Wilderness’ in all it’s below the radar glory. Again, staying with ‘Urban Hymns’ we were treated to’ Come On’ which was nailed to a t (whatever that means) and closed with a familiar ballistic rock-out that surprisingly saw RA play an electric guitar. Yummy yummy yummy. ‘Velvet Morning was great despite RAs dreadful and uncharacteristic off key vocal delivery. ‘Sonnet’ was churned out predictably and precisely like a jukebox live act, though don’t get me wrong I enjoyed it. ‘Lucky Man’ might’ve been better if it wasn’t for the 3 drunken girls behind me singing the wrong lyrics in a terribly inappropriate manner reminiscent I’m sure of cats being Tazered by dogs.

Oh, and would you believe they expertly knocked out ‘Bittersweet Symphony’, which not only got the party started in the place but actually went on to stick in my head after the gig, something I wasn’t prepared for having grown sick of it some time ago, so some great, long-lasting effect is reflected by that, right?
After RA leaves the stage, leaving his band to have a rewarding freak-out, PS leaves discreetly whilst NM and SJ have a little crowd pleasing, best friends forever man hug before they, like most people here tonight, part with grins across their Cheshire cat faces.

Other noteworthy titbits – £12 programmes they were selling to try and distract you from the fact that the £30+ ticket you paid for isn’t actually yours by the time you leave and is taken from you in its entirety, leaving you with no all important token souvenir. Beer @ £3 a pint was well worth it as it kept nice and cold in the Icehouse. I’m sure I’ve missed lots of things to share but whereas most people strike whilst the fire’s hot, I have to strike whilst the fire’s still there, so forgive me wont you! Verve are back ready or not!

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