“No-one told you to come to my concert, and that’s what I appreciate the most. There’s no sheep in this crowd.” -Richard Ashcroft, prior to his embarrassing Splendour fiasco.
Ashcroft is the soul of an era once past, one of the few britpop legends managing to survive with the same dignity they once possessed. His face alone, glorified by the public for its jagged cheekbones and ant-like uniqueness, has been something I have wanted to see with my own eyes for a very long time. Here for the first time as part of a new band, promoting their debut album Are You Ready, RPA & The United Nations of Sound played the Enmore Theatre with all the attitude and arrogance you’d expect from a dirty British rock band.
Supporting RPA & UNS was the Zooey Deschanel-esque Katy Steele, of Little Birdy fame. With a half empty theatre to play to, christmas lights strung across the amps in an awkward lighting setup, Steele was no doubt under a lot of pressure. Clangy guitar melodies were rather ear piercing, resonating throughout the theatre in a sort of intensely painful way, no doubt a result of a fucked up soundcheck. Accompanied by only a drummer, she was all alone in this one, despite attempts to engage what little audience she had (“this is when you all sing!” *silence). Awkward. Taking the grim reception rather well, Steele played on with a strong defiance and even commented on the “tough crowd” and the rip in her “slutty dress”.
With or without Little Birdy , her music is definitely something to look out for – she plays her indie tunes with genuine love, and all the cutesy charm and spirit we know. Even after she’d left the stage, I could hear a couple of people muttering the lyrics to her last tune.
With the eruption of an immense roar from the audience, Richard Ashcroft strolled onto the stage in socks, a sneaker held in each hand waving above his head – a living legend in derelict 90s sunglasses. RPA & The United Nations dove immediately into their title track, Are You Ready, as Ashcroft slyly removed items of clothing – first the jacket, then the socks, and lastly the sunnies.
The set included songs from Ashcroft’s previous three solo albums, as well as a few from Are You Ready. Fat middle-aged balding men in the audience tossed their dignity away and kept the security and myself well entertained throughout Music is Power with their red faced frenzies of excitement.
Seeing the blatant adoration from the audience prompted a lot of sheepish grins and shy smiles from Ashcroft, proving that all the showy rockstar arrogance doesn’t dominate his manner. He was into his music more than anyone else, and hearing the opening chords of Bittersweet Symphony as he confidently declared that “this song will live on forever and ever and ever” sent the emotions rolling.
With deafening feet stomping and a near-riot on their hands, RPA & The United Nations of Sound returned for an encore, of which “The Drugs Don’t Work” was the highlight. Played during a piercing silence, to an awe-struck audience, the moment was so beautiful I felt I had no right to exist alongside its flawless beauty. Ashcroft knows rock better than anyone else, whether it be with a band or alone, music is always being driven with the husky power of his voice.