The Verve


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The Verve were on a hiding to nothing the moment they announced "Bitter Sweet Symphony" was based around an Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra sample. The most distinctive 45 of 1997 utilized the most obscure sample -- even people with the ALO track in question have searched in vain for the guilty sequence. But the group 'fessed up, the copyright holders cleaned up, and so the most underrated band of the '90s became the most overrated victims, and the only people who really lost out were Simple Minds. For it wasn't the Stones who the Verve were vandalizing, it was the Minds' "New Gold Dream," and "Bitter Sweet Symphony" cannot even look toward its own fadeout without images of Jim Kerr springing to mind, the Pilsbury Doughboy of rock counting off the years since his last great record. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" falls two songs into the Verve's 1997 U.S. tour live set, a dead ringer for its studio counterpart (oh, the magic of tapes) and a positive embarrassment for the band themselves. For there's not another riff in their repertoire which equals its magnificence, not another phrase in Richard Ashcroft's vocabulary which even comes close, and not another moment in the show which captures the yearning, sublime beauty which that one song conjured up. And the fact that Jagger/Richards copped the composing credits simply exacerbates the paradox -- the only classic song the Verve will ever have, and they're not even allowed to write it. The rest of the set is renta-rumble post-baggy average, plodding through selections from Urban Hymns and beyond, then climaxing with "The Drugs Don't Work," the Verve's only U.K. number one, but still a pale shadow of the "Symphony" itself. It's a competent showing, and an enjoyable one. But one can't help wishing that they'd just stayed at home and sent the single out on tour in their stead.

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