Selected by Dan Grunebaum

Richard Ashcroft

Photo by Creativeman

If ever anyone looked the part of a rock star, ex-Verve frontman Richard Ashcroft is it. His long, lanky bad boy affectation, leather-jacket-and-jeans and insouciant attitude have been everywhere recently, on the strength of his new solo debut album Alone With Everybody and attendant single "C' Everybody." On two evenings in October, Tokyo fans get a chance to judge whether Ashcroft sounds as good as he looks.

While Ashcroft - who has been called "the human spliff" - is sitting pretty now, things didn't come easy for the Wigan, UK native. Losing his father at age 11, nearly losing his mind at age 20, and losing the band that brought him international stardom twice no less, Ashcroft seems to have lived several lifetimes already in his 28 years.

Forming The Verve after meeting four former schoolmates in the unemployment benefits line in 1990, Richard Ashcroft was already telling people "You better remember me - you better remember Richard Ashcroft," at the age of 14.

OK, he's got a rock star-sized ego, but how about the talent to go with it? The answer, grudgingly, has to be yes. The Verve's second album, A Northern Soul issued in 1995, gave some indication. Anchored by the hypnotic, melancholic "History" single, the album was suffused with the torn relationships and drug psychoses that were to tear the band apart the same year.

But The Verve were not to remain apart for long. "To me, being in a band at this level is a test of your strength as individuals, and we weren't ready for it before," Ashcroft comments on his website about the breakup and reformation. "We just weren't strong enough. Now I believe we are."

The Verve reformed in 1997, releasing Urban Hymns, which went on to become the UK's fifth-best selling album in history thanks to the powerful single "Bitter Sweet Symphony." But they were not to remain together for long, and split up again in 1998 following guitarist Nick McCabe's decision not to complete their US tour.

Taking time out to get married to former Spiritualized keyboardist Kate Radley and become a father, Ashcroft returned to the studio to record Alone With Everybody. While the songs reflect his new positive feelings about where he is at the moment, the album-with its layered arrangements-is still very much in The Verve vein.

Ashcroft, it seems, hasn't lost any of the fire. "I want to make music that makes people cry, or elevates people to a different place," he explained in a recent interview in The Guardian. "I think it has to do that. That's why so much music makes you actually feel ill. And there's nothing depressing about it, nothing wrong with it. Look at any poetry. Poetry from 300 years ago. What do you think they were talking about? What do you think man's been talking about since he had the words to express it? Before that? Love, life, death, quest for happiness, misery, war..."

Richard Ashcroft plays Zepp Tokyo on October 18 and 23. See listings for details.

Concert Listings
394: Regurgitator
393: Art Garfunkel


392: Belle and Sebastian
391: Super Furry Animals
390: Ben Folds
389: Elton John
388: Dido
387: Papa Roach
386: Beast Feast 2001
385: Summersonic
384: David Sylvian
383: Maxi Priest & Big Mountain
382: Fuji Rock Festival 01
381: Roxy Music
380: Bo Diddley
379: John McLaughlin & Zakir Hussain in Remember Shakti
378: Paul Weller
377: Coolio
376: Backyard Babies
375: Marcus Miller
374: Black Crowes
373: Megadeath
372: Dionne Warwick
371: Arrested Development
370: Mouse on Mars
369: Duran Duran
368: Linkin Park
367: Maceo Parker
366: Japan Blues Carnival 2001
365: Ben Harper
364: Cheap Trick
363: Stephen Malkmus
362: Mogwai
361: Weezer
360: Marilyn Manson
359: Green Day
358: AC/DC
357: Richard Thompson
356: Bob Dylan
355: J. Mascis
354: Leigh Stephen Kenny
352/3: Limp Bizkit
351: Boyz II Men
350: Reef
349: Park Tower Blues Festival
348: Roni Size
347: Compay Segundo
346: Incognito
345: Jimmy Page and The Black Crowes
344: Bad Religion
343: Japan Soul Festival 2000
342: Rocktober 2000
341: Richard Ashcroft
340: Motorhead
339: Festival Halou
338: Ricky Martin
337: Taj Mahal
336: Asian Dub Foundation
335: Lou Reed
334: Earth, Wind & Fire
333: Sting
332: No Doubt
331: Camel
330: Fuji Rock: Smash Talks
329: Summer Sonic
328: Mt. Fuju Aid 2000
327: Salif Keita
326: Buena Vista Social Club
325: Bill Frisell
324: Maxi Priest
323: Lenine
322: Rage Against the Machine
321: Tommy Flanagan Trio
320: Smashing Pumpkins
319: Pet Shop Boys
318: Japan Blues Carnival
317: Gipsy Kings
316: Steely Dan
315: Pshish
314: Big Night Out
313: Femi Kuti and the Positive Force
312: Harry Connick Jr.
311: Sonny Rollins
310: Speech
309: Santana