After seeing Therion, I was back at Sub89 again the following night to see Wishbone Ash. I’d seen them at Shepherds Bush Empire back in May when supported by Panic Room and Mostly Autumn. The consensus amongst fans was that Mostly Autumn in particular completely stole the show from the headliners. But since this gig was local I though I’d give Wishbone Ash another chance.
By the end of the gig it was clear to me that what happened back in May wasn’t a fluke; While I know I’m a big Mostly Autumn fan and therefore more than a little biased, I still believe Wishbone Ash, despite their higher profile and name recognition ,are simply not in the same league as a live band as their support in May. I’ve seen other veteran bands from Wishbone Ash’s era, most notably Uriah Heep and Blue Öyster Cult who, like Wishbone Ash have just one or two original members left. Those bands can still put on a great show, even now. But sadly the current incarnation of Wishbone Ash falls well short of that.
The biggest single flaw in their sound is that Andy Powell is not a particularly great lead singer. His voice isn’t well suited to the more melodic material from their classic 70s albums. “Argus” songs such as “Throw Down The Sword” and “Warrior” were fine instrumentally, but Andy Powell’s voice sounded strained reaching for the higher notes. This probably explains why the setlist relied rather too heavily on somewhat generic blues-rock material at the expense of many of their classic songs – for example, they didn’t play “The King Will Come”.
That probably sounds unduly harsh – I did still enjoy the gig. At there best, the band could still entertain, and seemed a little more spirited than at Shepherds Bush, We still got some of the lovely twin-guitar harmonies, even if those guitars seldom really cut loose with the sort of stunning soloing of their 70s live albums.
But having seen the Martin Turner Wishbone Ash at High Voltage in August, where it was clear Martin Turner has still got it vocally, I just wish Andy Powell and Martin Turner would bury the hatchet and get back together again.