RICHARD Ashcroft’s former band, The Verve, exploded in 1997.

The superstar wrote his own song, Bitter Sweet Symphony, followed by equally successful consecutive singles which seemed to dominate the charts and the indie scene at the time.

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Through a few splits and reunions of the band, Richard Ashcroft has remained constant, releasing his first solo album – Alone With Everybody – released in 2000.

His career has snowballed since, picking up awards, recognition and chart acclaim. Mr Ashcroft now has an impressive five albums under his belt, plus a sound of his own.

Touring his latest album, Natural Rebel, he headlined a sell-out show at Cardiff Motorpoint Arena on April 20.

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The refreshing burst of good weather certainly set the mode well, for concert goers and staff alike at the venue.

As support there was a DJ who performed groove and swing. A strange choice, I thought, but it seemed to work, as the place filled.

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Finally the big moment came: Ashcroft and his band hit the stage.

The entrance was complimented with a phenomenal amount of smoke and his album cover – which features the rockstar with his guitar raised in the air – served as backdrop.

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Going straight into it, with his own sense of style and swagger, he opened with Out Of My Body, with a very natural performance, jiving and swinging as he sang.

As the song seamlessly ended, Ashcroft wished the crowd, “Happy Easter Cardiff!” which received a warm welcome from the fans.

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Ashcroft continued with The Verve’s Sonnet, his own This Is How It Feels, and The Verve’s Weeping Willow.

The performance oozed charisma, with help from his hard working backing band, putting on a great live show

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Ashcroft is clearly comfortable on stage and seems to really enjoy being there, getting lost in the songs, to a Shamanistic degree.

It was predominantly a crowd of people who were well versed with his material. They sang along and enjoyed the show, as he played hits Music Is The Power and A Song For Lovers, followed by a wealthy amount of some of his most popular songs.

Ashcroft closed the show with the soul Verve hit, Lucky Man, but returned for two encores: The Drugs Don’t Work and Bitter Street Symphony.

At 47 years old, Richard Ashcroft has the same vigour and vitality he had in his twenties when he first found fame.

This works fantastically live, with the set combining songs both old and new.

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Richard Ashcroft will continue to tour, with dates lined up throughout the UK and further afield. Among the shows not yet sold out are Hull, Doncaster. London, Warrington, Isle of Wight, Glasgow and Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.

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Review and photos by Jeff Oram