For the last week or so, I’ve been on something of a Verve kick. Specifically, their earliest recordings, when they were at their most psychedelic and tripped out, i.e., A Storm in Heaven and their early singles (“All in the Mind,” “Gravity Grave”). I’m hard-pressed to think of a better example of this early phase of The Verve’s career then the above concert video, which captures the band at the height of their psych-rock powers.
There are a few shows that I wish I could travel back in time to see: U2 at Red Rocks, My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless tour, The Cure at The Palace of Auburn Hills, and Depeche Mode’s “World Violation” tour, to name a few. Go ahead and add this Verve set from 1992 to that list, if only to experience Nick McCabe’s wall of sound in person.
While Richard Ashcroft was, understandably, The Verve’s face — and he definitely mugs it up during this performance — McCabe was arguably the band’s soul and fire, especially during these early days. The gorgeous sounds he coaxed from his guitars and effects pedals took The Verve’s songs to incredible heights. Just listen to the loud/quiet transitions during “Slide Away,” the delicate and even playful riffs that run through “South Pacific,” or “The Sun, The Sea“ ‘s towering crescendo. And on “Gravity Grave,” McCabe used Simon Jones and Peter Salisbury’s solid grooves as a launchpad to blast the song somewhere into the upper atmosphere.
If anybody out there is compiling a list of 1990s-era guitar gods, then Nick McCabe surely belongs somewhere on that list — and this concert should be entered as “Exhibit A.”