LIVE: Ash / The Subways – Nottingham Rock City, 03/10/2023

A glance around Nottingham’s iconic Rock City at 8.15pm on this Tuesday night in October proves that Ash knew what they were doing when they invited The Subways on tour with them – a sea of singing faces gaze up at Charlotte Cooper and Billy Lunn, echoing words from singles and album tracks alike. You’d be forgiven for thinking you had wandered in on an early headline set. The pair, who have been The Subways for 20 years now, are these days aided by Camille Phillips on drums after long-time band mate Josh Morgan left in 2020.

The Subway Sect
The Subways


Bounding on stage with grins from ear to ear, they have the confidence to launch straight into possibly their most well known song, 2005 hit ‘Oh Yeah’, then proceeding to cover the ground across their albums, material from their new record Uncertain Joys received as rapturously as the old singles. Their joy at sharing a stage with their heroes is infectious; “I can’t believe that Tim Wheeler comes in to speak to us before the shows” says Lunn, revealing that they have always adored tonight’s headliners, and it’s clear that the two bands have a lot of fans in common too.

Highlights of their energetic set include ‘We Don’t Need Money To Have A Good Time’ from third album Money and Celebrity, ‘Kalifornia’ from their second record and of course, a rabble rousing finale of their early hit ‘Rock & Roll Queen’.

Choosing to bring along a band who so many of their own fan base clearly love also demonstrates the modest nature of Ash, unbothered about being upstaged. And they have no need to be either, as they are in peak form following the release of their very positively received new album a couple of weeks back. Like their special guests, they seem delighted to be here, in a venue that they admit they were once banned from for a period following an incident that isn’t made entirely clear by the band, though fire extinguishers were apparently involved!

Kicking off with the new record’s most muscular track, ‘Like A God’, they flow seamlessly into the album’s biggest classic ‘Ash pop’ moment, the title track and lead single ‘Race The Night’. It’s an immediate demonstration of the differing styles across the new material, which will be well represented tonight.

There’s plenty of room for some hits too, triumphant early airings of (maybe surprisingly) the band’s biggest hit, ‘Goldfinger’ and the superb non-album single ‘A Life Less Ordinary’ (penned for the huge film of the same name). There’s an outing for the excellent 2004 single ‘Orpheus’ from their most all-out rock album, Meltdown, a song that proves that even at their heaviest, they can still throw in a trademark bittersweet Ash chorus – these songs really have aged extremely well indeed.

2018’s Islands is represented by the groove of ‘Confessions In The Pool’ (sadly no ‘Buzzkill’ tonight, but Ash have a lot of material!), and the huge hit ‘Shining Light’ still sounds absolutely life-affirming, shifting through the gears and key changes to an ecstatic conclusion. Wheeler has an easy relationship with the crowd, chatting between songs, and clearly happy to be here.

Ash 2


Drummer Rick McMurray provides unexpected vocal cover for one of the highlights of the new album, the beautifully reflective ‘Oslo’ on which he somehow manages to make up for the absence of Dutch singer Démira while continuing his drumming! Ash are back to being a trio at the moment (Charlotte Hatherley re-joined for last year’s Free All Angels celebration tour), but Wheeler, McMurray and bassist Mark Hamilton produce a mighty sound that makes it difficult to believe that there are only three people up there. Not that it wouldn’t be nice to see Hatherley back in the fold (and it would also be nice to have a new album if you are reading Charlotte!).

There’s a couple more from the new record, ‘Peanut Brain’ and ‘Braindead’ before the salvo of Ash classics ‘Kung Fu’ and ‘Girl From Mars’ lead into the epic newie ‘Crashed Out Wasted’ and then the band are gone, but swiftly return with The Subways to perform Ash’s ‘Oh Yeah’ (complete with both drummers!), Billy Lunn particularly looking like he’s living a dream. The two bands have covered each others’ ‘Oh Yeah’ singles for a split 7” that a particular writer forgot to buy from the merch stand in all the excitement. There’s still room for a couple more songs, two more big hits in ‘Angel Interceptor’ (perhaps unfairly the least celebrated of those 1977 debut album hits) and an ebullient ‘Burn Baby Burn’ to close. Rick McMurray still manages to fit in a post-encore stage dive, like a lap of honour.

It’s been another celebratory night with Ash – hopefully this album and tour is going so well they might be tempted into a few more UK dates soon.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.