7 April 2011

Wishbone Ash at The Brook

I quite like Wishbone Ash and I quite like The Brook (in Southampton) so this gig always had its attractions.

Add to that the opportunity to spend the evening with my eldest son who is at university there and the earlier part of the day with Dad in Weymouth then the deal was done.

It must be a symptom of the average age of Wishbone Ash fans but as soon as the doors opened there was a rush for the few seats upstairs. I prefer to stand so that I can move a little (I cannot call it dancing due to the Trades Description Acts) and to be closer to the band so I ambled in to the main downstairs area.

Breaking with tradition (I seem to be doing a lot of that recently) I did not go for the very front, despite the easy opportunity to do so, but instead chose to be half-way back in the centre to get a better sound balance and to see more of the stage.

There are two Wishbone Ashes these days, this one features two original members, Andy Powell (lead guitar) and Bob Skeat (bass), and carries the original name. The other is called Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash. I've seen them both.

The two "new" members of Wishbone Ash are Muddy Manninen (guitar) who joined in 2004 and youngster Joe Crabtree (drums) who is the newest new boy having only been in the band for four years.

You know what to expect with Wishbone Ash and they know that's what you are expecting too so that's what they do.

It's the familiar and much loved bluesy rock tinged at times with touches of the progressive.

They opened with Blowing Free and for the next couple of hours we had many more songs like that. Some were equally well known, even to fair-weather fans like myself, such as Throw Down the Sword.

Others were introduced as being more recent, were completely new to me, and sounded refreshingly like the old songs.

And that is the heart of what Wishbone Ash are about, a familiar and comfortable sound that varies little. Whether that's a strength or a weakness rather depends on how you feel about that sound. I like it!

A highlight of the evening came towards the end when Andy Powell introduced another classic, Phoenix, with a story about Japan with the hope and expectation that it too would rise like a phoenix from the aftermath of its natural disasters. That got a good round of applause.

A good, solid, professional, uplifting and bouncy performance that helps to explain why Wishbone Ash has been going strong for forty years.

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