Richard Ashcroft, O2 Academy, Birmingham - review and pictures
"Thanks for taking my songs to your heart."
It's a night of raw, singalong emotion for Richard Ashcroft's faithful fans serenading their Britpop choirmaster.
Birmingham's O2 Academy resembled more of an evangelical worship with the crowds swaying to Ashcroft's songbook sermon.
For some it was a trip back to days gone by; chucking beer, jumping and jostling and throwing out your hands wide like Christ the Redeemer.
And they all bow down in front of Ashcroft as he strutted onto stage - in a glitzy bomber jacket.
Flashy the jacket may be but the Wigan warbler, dubbed the "best singer in the world", had to grow into his set.
There was a surprising low key opening of 2016's Out of My Body before The Verve favourite Sonnet.
But after dispensing with the jacket he was back in the room complete with that unmistakable voice.
The long locks were dripping with sweat as he mopped his brow and reminisced about past gigs at the Academy.
He recalled how he'd fell off stage and broke two ribs during one gig and another remembered for his nan watching on from the balcony.
Looking back on his life in the spotlight saw his eyes glisten and energised his performance.
"I'm not playing/ And this is no lie/ This is me saying/ I wanna live, I wanna die," he sings on Surprised by the Joy.
With Oasis canned, Blur back in their box and Pulp, erm, Pulped; Ashcroft still looks defined by an era long gone.
But that doesn't diminish his spirited swagger which helped light up the room for the fans to sing back the biggest anthems.
A Song for Lovers and Lucky Man were sung to deafening levels with Ashcroft even joking that he need not have sung them himself.
He arrived on stage for the encore with just his guitar for a captivating version of The Drugs Don’t Work before being joined by members of the band again as it rose to a crescendo.
And Bitter Sweet Symphony is one hell of a way to finish a set.
Ashcroft is an icon of British music culture and his fans pray their Northern Soul returns soon.
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