Rock preview: Feb 17-23

Ash, on tour | Kaiser Chiefs, on tour | Rufus Wainwright, London | Kings Of Leon, on tour

On tour

Nearly 15 years into their career, Ash remain, on some levels, forever young. Struggling with how to move the game on from their original melodic but slightly coy power pop, the slow and transformation of Tim Wheeler's band into a mature rock group has not been at the expense of their most charming qualities. Now the band follow the departure of guitarist Charlotte Hatherley with what one imagines will be another slight tweaking of their formula, as purveyors of slightly edgy, happily mainstream rock.

· Preston University of Central Lancashire, Mon 19; Manchester University, Wed 21, Thu 22; Warwick University, Coventry, Fri 23

Kaiser Chiefs
On tour

As with the originators of Britpop, whom they closely resemble, Kaiser Chiefs at times seem to embody that slogan of postwar Britain, "We've never had it so good". Having found success with their anecdotal songs about disappointing regional experience, one senses it's all the more prized for having been achieved during what was likely their last crack at glory. But despite the passing of that Britpop revival mood, rather than change, the band's Yours Truly, Angry Mob album sees them toning down their anthemic tendencies and honing a winning formula.

· Apollo, Manchester, Wed 21 & Thu 22; Wolverhampton Civic Hall, Fri 23

Rufus Wainwright

Just when you think he's told you everything, Rufus Wainwright manages to find something else to surprise you with. Having made his name with a flamboyant confessional songwriting that has referenced everything from his troubled relationship with his father (the folkie Loudon) to his inability to dance to Britney Spears, Wainwright is an artist to have turned self obsession into an usually magnificent art. Set to arrive in the spring is his new album Release The Stars, the first material we might refer to as coming from the "post rehab" Rufus, possibly bringing with it a change of compositional tack. In the meantime, though, there's a limited opportunity to see how he applies his personality to a subject outside of himself. This week and next, he celebrates his return by emulating another great comeback by performing the material from Judy Garland's legendary show at Carnegie Hall in 1961.

· London Palladium, W1, Sun 18 & Feb 25

Kings Of Leon
On tour

Sons of a preacher man, they are. And maybe that's just as well: on the occasion of their third album, Because Of The Times, the Kings Of Leon look as if they may have to shepherd their flock through some potentially trickier times. Cute, short and occasionally bearded, the Nashville-born group's original selling point was that their songs were no less cute, or short, or indeed occasionally bearded than they were themselves. Having duly established themselves as a halfway house between the Strokes and Creedence Clearwater Revival, the band have since not been afraid to shake things up a little. Their last album, Aha Shake Heartbreak, brought a Beefheartian experiment to proceedings. This one, however, displays another change altogether: low, slow and somewhat swampy, the band are proving to have depths beyond expectation and it's turning out to be a pleasure to follow them down.

· Lea Cliffs Hall, Folkestone, Thu 22; University Of East Anglia, Norwich, Fri 23


John Robinson

The GuardianTramp

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