Live: England Rules When It Comes To Verve

Fans find new interesting mix of concertgoers come to watch Britain’s hottest rock commodity.

NEW YORK -- Young men stood in line in skin-tight shirts, beneath

moppish haircuts, while women, decked out in charcoal-lined Twiggy eyes,

wrapped themselves in vintage leather coats with floppy fur collars.

You'd think they were out for a night of fashion and dance British style, rather

than waiting for a chance to feast their eyes and ears on one of the hottest

bands on tour right now.

By appearances, it seemed the crowd outside Irving Plaza Wednesday night

wanted to latch onto the belief that it was all about Brit-pop: The Verve were the

new hot band from England and, in turn, British street style ruled. In the long line

of young people that wound around the New York City club, there was a mood

of quiet anticipation that seemed very unAmerican.

"Americans are always on the lookout for the next big thing," 24-year-old Jawal

Nga said. "And British street-style is the most exciting thing going on. Bands like

Oasis and the Verve are doing [for fashion] what Ian Brown of the Stone Roses

did in 1988."

And more than a few fans attributed the curiosity to British bands to a

disappointing trend in current American music. "There's really nothing going on

in American music now," said Jeremy Joseph, 21, a Brit and longtime fan who

has seen the Verve numerous times in England. "I mean, who have you got? I

like Beck, Rusted Root." But that's where he stopped.

Regardless of the sudden explosion surrounding this band, whose newest and

perhaps most extravagantly produced songs "Bittersweet Symphony" and

"Drugs Don't Work" have received heavy airplay and critical acclaim, Joseph

said he wasn't falling for the hype. "We should write to MTV and complain-

they're the ones who made them popular. We should write to those bastards at

Viacom," he said. "I had to pay $45 for this ticket."

He was going to judge for himself.

Surprisingly, given the flash-in-the-pan approach Americans normally exhibit

toward rising bands, many at the sold-out show were longtime fans, who

erupted into applause and cheers when Verve frontman Richard Ashcroft's

lanky silhouette appeared on the stage to open the show with 1995's "A New

Decade." Throughout the hour-and-a-half set, the band wound through older

songs such as "Stormy Clouds" and "History," mixing them with the newer, more

popular "Bittersweet Symphony," "Sonnet" and "Rolling People."

Ashcroft hypnotized the crowd with his endless enthusiasm, dancing barefoot

on the stage and egging on guitarist Nick McCabe. Ashcroft and the band put

an enormous amount of themselves into the performance, straight through the

four encores. "This is only the second time we played that song," Ashcroft said,

after singing "Butterfly." "But here's one we've played before: 'Man Called Sun.'"

The crowd applauded wildly, and later loyal fans offered their own opinions

about what the future holds for the Verve. Though glad to have been there,

some were disappointed in ways.

"They're going mainstream," said Rob Land, 22. "But they deserve this... It's

good for them."

Success was bound to happen to these guys at some point, his friend Jeremy

Rosenstein added.

"I saw them two years ago," said Rosenstein, also 22. "The sound is much better

now, they're more mature sounding."

Still others felt somehow put off by the recent success of the Verve.

Dave Mack, who'd traveled from Philadelphia to catch his third-ever Verve

show, stood near the back of the club. The large crowd had prevented him from

really getting close to the band as he has in the past. "I don't think [the Verve]

will ever be like Oasis," he said, perhaps hoping more than knowing. "They're at

a point where they can take it either way.

"He knows what he's doing," said Mack, nodding toward lead singer Ashcroft.

"This album is really personal. But I think the next album will be really different."

[Fri., Nov. 7, 1997, 9 a.m. PST]