Tim Wheeler doesn't do small talk. "Did anyone lose their virginity to '1977'?" he asks from the stage of the Olympia; the chorus of titters and embarrassed guffaws suggests that there may be a few guilty parties in the audience. If so – depending on how their experience was, of course - the Co. Down trio's run-through of their 1996 debut may have dredged up either fond or forgettable memories. For the rest of us, hearing those songs from start to finish proved both a nostalgia fest and a welcome reminder of what an excellent live band Ash are.
'1977' may be twenty years old, but Wheeler and his comrades Mark Hamilton and Rick McMurray have barely aged since then – the only differences being bassist Hamilton's longer hair and the drummer's lack of the same. Wheeler, in particular, is still the fresh-faced, smiley character as he always has been, and both his voice and guitar playing – and yes, that flying V still features on his rack - remain top-notch.
They quickly blaze through 'Goldfinger' and 'Girl from Mars', still box-fresh blasts of indie rock; 'Oh Yeah' remains an anthem for lovelorn teens and 'Kung Fu' and 'Jack Names the Planets'' punchy power-pop tunes that defined the genre before it even existed. Yet similarly – as with the album's tracklisting - some songs take longer to ignite the audience, most notably 'Let it Flow' and 'Innocent Smile'. You can't win 'em all.
There's a pause after the album's closing track 'Darkside Lightside', when Wheeler asks Hamilton if he'd like to reprise the 'Sick Party' 'secret' track (which he thankfully declines), before the trio launch into the 'hits'. 'Orpheus', taken from 2004's 'Meltdown' remains as joyfully bouncy as ever, if comparatively superficial-sounding in comparison to some of their earlier fare. 'A Life Less Ordinary' remains an underrated gem in their back catalogue, while an unexpected yet brilliant cover of Abba's 'Does Your Mother Know' proves strangely suited to their set-up. However, it's the closing couplet of the heart-soaring 'Shining Light' and the punky, glam thrust of 'Burn Baby Burn' that send the crowd home with smiles on their faces, safe in the knowledge that while '1977' may not be a perfect album, it's still aged pretty damn well.
Pic: Sean Smith