The Verve V Festival Staffordshire
Today across the land the football season finally kicks off and a similar sense of boisterous excitement abounds here. For the 30somethings this will also seem bizarrely familiar, The Verve played this very same festival 10 years ago and little from their set has changed. As Richard Ashcroft leads the way across the stage a piano led hymn rings around the site. Arrogant it may well be but this is about as spiritual a performance as you are going to see at a British music festival.
Opener This Is Music still suggests some higher plane at work, delivered like a rabid gospel and setting the tempo stringently. Even now it is clear that the band just had to turn up to please their crowd but when the delicately poignant lints of Sonnet become heard Ashcroft needs only to stand back and submit to inaudibility. Clearly some have been waiting a decade to hear The Verve live again, some maybe even longer.
Whilst Ashcroft has embarked on a mildly successful solo career between the bands various break-ups, little has been heard about Nick McCabe. Until Space and Time he merely ticks the boxes but then indulges himself in a feedback soaked breakdown. The guitarist’s influence remains on upcoming album Forth; despite the release date fast approaching it receives little publicity tonight. As an exception Sit and Wonder merits an inclusion, if only to allow for the wielding of ever more otherworldly sounds arising from McCabe’s six string.
Urban Hymns remains the main reserve yet highlights are chosen from their earlier repertoire too. A Northern Soul is plundered for History with its powerful bleakness in beauty and Life’s An Ocean which retains its ethereal soulfulness. Songs like these prove that The Verve can still rely on timeless classics, songs that no other band can come close to replicating. There is still room for The Rolling People which threatens to throb and swagger the set into a set of looseness that neither the band nor the crowd want to decline to.
With the rain now reaching monsoon intensity; Lucky Man provides an awkward contradiction which many are too entrenched in the performance to even notice. For around 50,000 people, standing in the mud, this is close to attending mass. The Hallelujah moment arrives in Bittersweet Symphony where the pilgrimage reaches epic proportions, worshipping at the Church of Ashcroft. That would have provided a justifiable end to proceedings yet suddenly you can hear the Tellytubbies and McCabe discreetly morphs the breakdown into a rejoicing rendition of Love Is Noise.
So, this may be merely an exercise in money spinning. So, McCabe and Ashcroft barely made eye contact but can you forget moments like these?