Wishbone Ash, Reading Sub89, 1 November 2010

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.

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8 Responses to Wishbone Ash, Reading Sub89, 1 November 2010

  1. Mike S says:

    I’m fortunate to be old and had the pleasure of seeing the original WA back in the early 70s, about the time of the Live Dates release. It’s hard to imagine any WA incarnation coming close to matching the energy of the band at that time.

  2. Tim Hall says:

    Before this year I’d last seen them at the 1981 Reading Festival, when Laurie Wisefield on guitar, and Trevor Bolder (!) on bass. Not sure who sang lead then – was a long time ago.

  3. Steve says:

    I saw WA on their 81 tour as well, at the Hammersmith Odeon. It was to promote the Number The Brave album, their first album after MT left the band. There’s three great songs on there – the title track, Underground & Open Road. The rest of the album can only be described as ordinary at best.

    Lead vocal duties were shared between AP and LW. They also experimented by using Claire Hammil as a backing vocalist. I remember enjoying the gig, but can’t otherwise remember too much about it.

  4. Tim Hall says:

    A friend of mine (who was a huge WA) fan saw them on that tour – remember him saying Claire Hamill sang lead on at least one song.

    BTW, Claire Hamill guested with the Martin Turner Wishbone Ash (!) at High Voltage.

  5. me says:

    you are a moron if you think Martin Turner has any vocal capacity left…you have a vendetta against the powerhouse unit that Andy Powell is still a member of, and Mart can barely hold a note nowadays…High Voltage was a joke–even his own staff and marketing will not let the video and audio loose on the internet because of the poor quality and playing… ..pathetic drivel on your part to even condone what Turner is doing, while Powell and WA are making new music, getting legions of new fans, making DVDS, and touring the world, while MT and his minstrels go from town to town with their equipment in a vehicle boot….shame….

  6. Tim Hall says:

    Clearly some of Andy Powell’s so-called fans can’t handle negative reviews without resorting to ad-hominem abuse. I also notice you’ve too cowardly to sign the post with you own name.

    This is the sort of behaviour one would expect from teenaged Emo fans – I would have thought grown-ups would be better-behaved.

  7. Steve says:

    I’ve been following WA since the late 70s, and have seen the band many times. Of the two versions of the band we have today, I do prefer the MT version. although I enjoy the AP version as well. I do feel that MT’s band have a better feel for the more melodic songs, and their interpretations of these songs are much closer to the vibe of the original sound.

    I do agree with Tim that MT is a far better vocalist. After seeing the band live a few months ago, this confirmed my view. And while the AP band is very strong in the twin guitar department, MT has two superb axemen either side of him. And they both take a lead vocal as well to give the contrast.

    Some interesting thoughts aired by “Me”. To describe Tim’s gig review as being some kind of “vendetta” against AP, and to describe his comments about MT as being “pathetic drivel” is, frankly, ridiculous. Regarding the “joke” of High Voltage, The MTWA You Tube channel have put three videos up to showcase the set. The quality of the vids, and the performance of the songs, are excellent. And if MT and his band tour the country with their gear in a “vehicle boot”, then all credit to them.

    MTWA have just released a DVD of a whole gig from the 2010 Spring tour. If it’s as good as the show that I saw, then I’ll be very pleased with it. Hoping it will tumbling through the letterbox before the week is done.

  8. Tim Hall says:

    Steve – A much longer rebuttal than an anonymous drive-by troll really deserved. Funny how some people are so quick to accuse others of having an agenda when they’ve got a very clear agenda of their own.

    Reflects very badly on the artist he/she/it claims to love. Though it’s not fair to judge Andy Powell’s band on one fan.