Saturday, May 3, 2008

Live Review: The Verve @ Coachella, April 25

Pardon me for just a second while I remove my jaw from the ground and wipe these tears of joy from my eyes. For you see, I have witnessed what I can only describe as a miracle, friends. Hallelujah, I have seen the reformation of the once and always glorious Verve, and it was Great. It's the closest thing to a religious experience I quite possibly have ever had. Holy, holy, holy, they have risen from the dead to save us all.

As soon as I knew the Verve were going to be at Coachella, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that I had to be there. After all, it had been over ten achingly long years since I saw them in Atlanta for the first and only time, months before their heartbreaking disbanding. So ardently do we fans love our band that I saw a girl at that show with a large, blue tattoo of our fearless Captain Rock, Richard Ashcroft. And while inking permanent devotion isn't my scene, I find it perfectly within the realms of reality to hop on a plane to see them perform thousands of miles from home.

And so it was that I found myself, after a splendid first day of Coachella, in the second row of a crowd that hummed with anticipation, waiting for the great and powerful Verve to appear. And then, finally, after a gospel-tastic intro, the moment over ten years in the making finally arrived. Richard Ashcroft, Simon Jones, Nick McCabe, and Pete Salisbury swaggered back into view, and picked up exactly where they left off. In my notes from the Coachella weekend, right above the setlist, I have the words "The Verve = perfect." And apart from a couple things that could have happened to make them even more spectacular (more on that later), that's the truth.

The kicker is this: I can tell you what they played, I can tell you how I felt, but the most important thing about that whole set was that they looked so happy to be on that stage. They looked like they felt the music running through their veins and it made them blissfully happy. And they sounded like they'd never stopped being the Verve.

They opened their 11-song set with one of my favorite Verve songs, "This is Music." It was as heady and weighty as ever, the line "if love is a drug than it ain't for me" as powerful today as it was when I first heard it some eleven years ago. One of the things I would have loved to see was less of a reliance on the material from Urban Hymns. Seven of the songs in the set came from their final album, and I think the inclusion of Storm in Heaven's "Slide Away" or "Blue" would have been dynamite, instead of, say, "Space and Time."

The band steamrolled through, playing each track with love and care. Ashcroft politely introduced every single song, and repeatedly thanked the crowd for being there with them. As he had done when I saw them many years ago, he removed his shoes about halfway through the set. Richard also played a lot more guitar than I remember him doing before, and it added depth to their already full sound. And then there was Nick McCabe, and really what else can you say about McCabe other than the man's a genius? Guitars are putty in his hands. The crowd erupted when "Bittersweet Symphony" was introduced, and they played it to perfection. I know many people see that nicked loop of Andrew Loog Oldham's as the best part of that song, but it's a fine song in its own right. The band played two new tracks, "Sit and Wonder" and the closing song "There is Love." Both sounded like a natural progression from the Urban Hymns sessions, but with just a hint of A Northern Soul lurking underneath. The only other thing I would have changed about their set would be to have closed with "Bittersweet Symphony," instead of "There is Love." But the idea of them making new music together makes me immensely happy.

Unfortunately, there was one more act to go on, and so after what seemed like an unfairly short set (though in reality it had been over an hour), the foursome bid us farewell, and I left to revel in the memories of what had just transpired. I felt like I had dreamed it all, it was so good. Here's the setlist, and an urgent plea to go and see the Verve live whenever you get the chance. You might just fall in love all over again.

This is Music
Space and Time
Sonnet
Life's an Ocean
Weeping Willow
Sit and Wonder
Rolling People
The Drugs Don't Work
Lucky Man
Bittersweet Symphony
There is Love

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