Ash at the Aladdin
is still king
Ash is a man who knows the value of the electric-guitar-as-bludgeon,
and dammit, I'll be danged if it doesn't work.
Expecting little from someone I loved back when, on April 20 we
get the insides of our skulls scraped out by a full-on British rock
show, performed at the Aladdin for a bunch of sexy, young Portland
things in fishnet stockings, white face-paint and black lipstick.
And the girls are cute, too!
approach: Dahlia's Jennifer Volker and Keith Schreiner.
But first, Portland's own disco-dance royalty, Dahlia, warms the
crowd with a set of full-on, puddle-town electronica. The duo takes
the modern approach.
Black-box master Keith Schreiner bobs back and forth between a
cascade of electronic keyboards, sequencers and sundry, laying out
counterintuitive grooves which work like a tightly held leash rhythmically
jerking at our necks.
Meanwhile emotive, fiery Jennifer Volker stamps an earnest Portland-emo
vibe on the top; part Tanya Donnelly, part Aretha Franklin, swinging
from smooth, knockin' boots grooves to electrifying crescendos.
Complementing its neo-live-band electronica, Dahlia keeps you interested
on the floor with unusual sounds and scrupulous avoidance of the
usual DJ tropes, beats and breaks. It gets frighteningly serious
when Schreiner steps out from his lab, breaks out the didgeridoo
and Dahlia still grooves. It's not just dance wallpaper, for sure;
Dahlia has good live songs that happen to also be downright funky.
My buddy and I toss beers on top of margaritas waiting for Ash
to hit the stage. We're getting long-in-the-tooth after following
Ash's career for more than 15 years. We marvel at his 20-plus years
in rock, and we're thinking (or slurring): What's this? Out-of-date-geezer
chasing the club kids?
self-titled 2002 release: Disturbing and not too easy to figure
Not too many club kids here, however, but we best recognize: Ash
is fired up with some young head-bangers backing him, laying down
hard-core rock 'n' roll that says "guitar is king!"
As Ash and the bassist's mirror-covered instruments shoot rays
from the spotlight back through people's retinas, an out-of-control
train shakes the street. That's Mike Peeples, the drummer.
Even though the show weighs heavily on Ash's past (rather than
his disturbing new album, which I'm still trying to figure out),
the show rocks like a pile driver bringing heaviness to fey,
psychedelic Love And Rockets anthems as well as pseudo-funk Tones
On Tail workouts.
We can't underestimate the importance of the young and hungry rockers
(a car accident has put Ash's regular bassist, Patina Creme, in
the hospital) backing Ash on bass and drums. They imprint on Ash's
older tunes a raw intensity which finesse-players David J and Kevin
Haskins never matched.
in the Ash: the elder Goth-statesman still rocks out. [Chris
It's kind of weird watching the elder Goth-statesmen rocking out
with these temporary young sidemen; bassist John De Salvo's flailing,
dreadlocked presence is particularly incongruous.
Still, Ash as a guitar-drunk latter-day George Michael cruising
through his large catalog for only the best songs, is quite appealing.
The shogun-style wide-bell-bottom-and-boots look matches well with
his perennially sleazy presence.
"Don't touch it, it's concentrated evil!"
If the hammering rhythms, psychedelic lights and ripsaw guitar
aren't enough, check this out: First, that rock 'n' roll mother
sends the microphone out into the crowd so people can sing along
to the Tones On Tail hit, "Go!" Then he invites 30 or
so up on stage to dance and sing with him, still holding it together
in the ensuing maelstrom.
That's the real rock, and I hope he gets another 20-plus years
to do it.