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Daniel Ash:Galaxy Theatre Santa Ana

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Daniel Ash
Galaxy Theatre, Santa Ana, California—04/16/02

It's always a treat to see Daniel Ash live—solo or in a band—as his feline attitude and cool look are always a magnet of attention onstage. As the creative core of two of the most influential new wave bands, there was a genuine excitement to see the singer/guitarist perform some of the great songs he wrote. While the concert was certainly a lot of fun for his long-time followers, it became obvious that there is less Love without his Rockets.

Ash's live act was limited to himself, a bass player and a drummer while his DJ's main purpose was to warm up the room. We were left with a typical rock configuration—guitar/bass/drums—somewhat surprising given the electronic orientation of his latest album. What was a good match for early cuts from the eras of Tones on Tails and Love & Rockets, appeared to be a failure when it came to Love & Rockets and Ash's more sophisticated latest songs. Ash's bandmates indeed proved their limitations. The drummer's hits were heavy and more fitted to some Huntington Beach punk band, far from Kevin Haskins' finely pitched style. The replacement bass player—the original one had been injured in a car accident coming to the opening of the tour at the Galaxy—certainly knew his job but didn't have David J's stylish approach as his instrument was too loud and sometimes overshadowed the singer's voice.

The show's highlights were rock songs full of raw energy and acoustic pieces from Love and Rockets, Tones on Tails and his solo work. It all began with a furious "Mastermind" where sequencers were quickly covered by a deluge of noisy guitars and Daniel Ash's roars. Songs like "Come Alive" and "Spooky" lacked the synthetic ambiance present on the album, while "Ghost Writer" did sound good live. "So Alive" was certainly a pleasure but a lack of arrangements undermined it: the haunting anthem was too bare as the primitive drums betrayed the song's famous waltz tempo. The real gems of the show were acoustic moments such as 'Slice of Life" and unbridled versions of "Coming Down" and "Go" that closed the show.

Ash showed a real enthusiasm and has a natural frontman charisma. This show was definitely low-key and didn't have the glam extravaganza of his Love and Rockets performances. The singer forgot lyrics and riffs of some old classics but it was no big deal. He was there to share some personal moments with his fans and that's what really mattered. I remember meeting Love and Rockets after a show a few years back and, contrary to this night's, Ash wasn't particularly joyful. It seems that a lack of pressure and a certain artistic freedom have brought back the fun that was perhaps lacking in some purely career moves.

During the finale, some girls invaded the stage to dance, but when some freaky-looking older woman came up and literally harassed the singer performing along with our visual senses, he knew—and we knew—it was time to go.

  Fred Thom

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Daniel Ash: So Alive

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