Mike Atkinson

The Verve – Nottingham Arena, Tuesday December 12th

Posted in Capital FM Arena, gigs, Nottingham Post by Mike A on December 12, 2007

Following considerable press hype and a couple of hits, seven–piece Sheffield band Reverend and the Makers stepped up to the demands of an arena gig as if it were their natural habitat. Mentored by the veteran Mancunian punk poet John Cooper Clarke, and with Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys as a close friend and kindred spirit, lanky frontman Jon McClure, aka The Reverend, won over the initially cautious crowd with his acerbic portraits of modern city life. His band drew inspiration from anthemic 1990s indie of the Stone Roses/Oasis variety, mixing it up with funky electronics in an agreeable and promising fashion.

Eight years after splitting, The Verve returned to the live stage in early November, with an ecstatically received run of dates in medium-sized venues. Encouraged by the universally positive reaction, they swiftly arranged a full-blown arena tour, of which last night’s show was the first.

With his outsized shades and newly bleached crop, Richard Ashcroft had the look of 1973-era Lou Reed about him, but everything else about his performance style – aloof, arrogant and intense, with more than a touch of the messianic – remained unchanged. Although Verve material had continued to feature in his solo shows, guitarist Nick McCabe’s absence had always been keenly felt, and so expectations were understandably high.

The band opened with the 1995 single This Is Music, before launching into instant crowd-pleaser Sonnet, with its distinctive guitar chops that still bring Spandau Ballet’s True rather unfortunately to mind. The set continued in mid-paced, somewhat sombre mode, mixing material from their two lesser known early albums with generous chunks from the multi-million selling classic that the vast bulk of the audience had come to hear, Urban Hymns.

Although a handful of new songs were premiered on the November tour, none of them surfaced during last night’s show – but instead of seizing the opportunity to whip up a storm, the band held back, losing themselves in ponderous sludge and unfocussed guitar jams. Sure, a few arms-aloft diehards down the front were clearly having the time of their lives, but most of the arena merely looked on with polite half-smiles, waiting for things to catch fire.

Ashcroft’s vocals first faltered during a lacklustre On Your Own, revealing an awkward off-key croakiness. Although he mostly managed to pull them back, problems recurred during History, which even drew an apology. (“I messed it up a bit folks, but that’s live music.”)

When The Drugs Don’t Work was greeted by a sea of phone screens rather than the rapt attention that might have been expected, it was a sign of how badly things had sagged. Well, you’ve got to make your own entertainment somehow. Closing the main set, Come On displayed the raucous energy and attack which we had been missing, but it was too little, too late.

Only the final encore of Bittersweet Symphony brought the arena’s seated sections to their feet, as they raised cheers for what was essentially an extended tape loop accompanied by drums and whooshy effects pedals. Perhaps wisely, Ashcroft turned his mike towards the crowd for the final verse.

The Verve promised transcendence, but they delivered mediocrity. A disappointing night.

Set list:

This Is Music
Life’s An Ocean
Space And Time
Weeping Willow
On Your Own
Already There
The Rolling People
Velvet Morning
Let The Damage Begin
The Drugs Don’t Work
Come On
Lucky Man
Bittersweet Symphony

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