A R T I C L E S
a n d I N T E R V I E W S
Tour Reviews - Classic Legends of Rock - Oct-Nov 2008
Norwich, Waterfront 1 Oct 2008
Went to the Classic Rock Legends show at the Waterfront last night. was certainly great to have a MTWA gig on my doorstep. I've got mixed feelings about the whole package tour concept, which seemed to be shared by those who i heard chatting. Fans of each band seemed frustrated that they wanted more from "their" band and seemed impatient while the other acts were playing. It even seemed uncomfortable for the bands with both Martin and Tihjs Van Leer of Focus mentioning on stage about having to keep things brief.
MTWA stole the show for sure, coming across as the most polished band on the night and also the one with the greatest stage presence (aside from the madcap Thijs from Focus the other two bands were pretty faceless - heads down, concentration, zero personality.)
MTWA entered the stage to some eerie introduction music, something I don't think I'd ever seen them do before. I think it worked well and made for a grander opening. The set was not what I would have chosen, being a fairly straight forward collection of WA's better known moments. I missed the unusual songs we get it a MTWA gig but for most the crowd it seemed just the ticket. Of the three acts on the bill MTWA went the total nostalgia route while the other two mixed new and old songs.
Seemed a bit strange hearing "Jailbait" in the middle and I wondered what they would close with. Martin kind of nervously introduced "a little ditty I haven't played in years, let's see how this one goes" and then we were into "Phoenix". What a surprise. I don't think I've ever heard it sounding so fresh. It didn't ramble on like some versions have in the past and was better for being kept short and to the point. It was nice to hear MT sing it after all this time.
MTWA played like the true warriors they are, should be headlining. Every song was a winner and seemed to be recognised by a large section of the crowd. So, an enjoyable evening,
Norwich show, excellent. Obviously in my opinion MTWA should have been top of the bill. Just loved hearing "Phoenix" again, my all time favourite Ash song. Thank You.
Cheltenham, Town Hall 2 Oct 2008
Saw Classic Legends in Cheltenham last night - MTWA were fantastic and Phoenix..what can I say. The intro music drew the audience into the show nicely, Danny Willson, as other people have said, is more than just a replacement for Keith Buck but has taken the band to a higher plain. Ray and Rob were excellent as always and MT remains the master of WA music. MTWA's sound was great, with the echo of the huge building adding extra depth to Martin's vocals in "Phoenix" particularly. Close your eyes and it could have been 1973 over again. 110% quality from our boys. The audience were appreciative of all three bands on the night.
This was a chance to re-live my teenage years when I saw Wishbone at Cheltenham in about 1970. Three of my favourite bands from the seventies! Heaven!! Wishbone Ash did not disappoint and were very faithful to the sound. I took a mate who is much younger than me and he said it was the best live band he has seen for a long time. I will definitely look out for their next major tour. Amazing four part harmonies live! Very professional. Keep on rockin' Martin!
Was at gig last night and had a great time. I think the attendance was near capacity. MT and co came onto the stage to a huge round of applause - I got the impression that many were here for MTWA. It was a great set, played superbly and VERY well received!! Danny really impressed and was swapping licks with Ray like they had been together for years. Personally would have preferred Danny's guitar a bit higher in the mix (but that is just being SO PICKY). Martin's voice really impressed - he managed all the high notes during "Phoenix". Plenty of smiles from the band - Danny especially seems up for a larf! Shame no encore permitted.
All in all I had a blast. These bands are all very different - but all fantastic in my book.
In short - do go. Three different landmark bands. (One of which is the best, ever - of course). Good value for money whatever your preference. Arguably the meat in the sandwich was MTWA. They were just superb. "Phoenix", which I had never seen live before, was a particular treat for me. The response was immense. Mr T was most alluring in black, wearing a very tasteful embroidered shirt which I haven’t seen before. Very nice.
Buxton, Opera House 4 Oct 2008
Buxton Opera House is beautiful and its design contributes to the excellent acoustics in the hall. I am told it is a very favourite venue for opera singers, as the name suggests. Boy it was wet, though. Buxton is the highest town in England above sea level (over 1000 feet ). I arrived and left in heavy rain, which made it quite hairy going over the tops, especially in the dark. On reaching Buxton I was just glad to find somewhere to park the car near the centre – and then find the Opera House. Of course the music was faultless, enhanced further by the showmanship and humour that accompanied it: Brilliant. Then, Martin braved the crowds who were waiting in line for their CDs, T Shirts, posters, books and tickets, etc, to be signed.
A very enjoyable evening.
I was at the Buxton gig as well, the weather was foul. I was sat right at the top of the theatre in the gallery and really enjoyed the whole show. MTWA were great and I really loved hearing Mart singing "Phoenix" live. This is probably my all time favourite track but I have never seen it performed live before so a real treat. Spoke to Mart afterwards in the foyer and he agreed that the whole concert seemed like a throw back to the "hippy 70's ". Overall a very enjoyable evening and very impressed with the venue and service of the staff. Now looking forward to more MTWA gigs, hopefully next year when they will be playing a full set again including (hopefully "Phoenix" ,"You see Red", "Lady Jay", "Lifeline", etc, etc.
Cardiff, St Davids Hall 5 Oct 2008
MTWA's set was first rate and I echo what other fans have said. Of the three band's MTWA definitely went down the best and iI heard many fans in the bar suggested that MTWA should have been headliners. I was surprised at how strong the Argus songs sounded. Like most fans, I've heard them before and actually welcomed MTWA's decision to veer towards lesser heard music in its live shows, but the versions of the Argus songs this time out were so strong that i actually enjoyed hearing them again - this line-up has breathed new life into them. Rob and Ray were their usual excellent selves while Danny Willson is a fantastic find and a great addition to the ranks.
The biggest surprise of all was "Phoenix" - again, not one I would have chosen, but the band's treatment of it made it a worthy inclusion. None of the outstretched licks that Laurie Wisefield or Ben Granfelt (fine players though they are) used; no reggae sections, the "train" section kept brief. Just the piece as it was originally intended with the bonus of those hallmark MT vocal lines. Sheer magic.
A fine evening - thanks to Martin for not only for a top rank performance but also for taking the time to sign autographs in the interval.
Lee Van Streem
MTWA were excellent and Danny Willson is indeed a worthy successor to Keith Buck. Many people appear to bemoan the fact that they are playing a shorter set on this triple bill. However, this way of touring appears to be the way to go for many bands that are not considered "the in - thing". One only has to look at recent Deep Purple, Whitesnake, Def leppard, Slayer tours etc. Heck, even Judas Priest are going down this route next Feb with Megadeth and Testament in tow. This type of tour will only serve to bring more focus (no pun intended) on MTWA and that can only be a good thing. In my humble opinion, if Martin only concentrated on playing the same old small clubs etc the band would stagnate. Martin and his band need this tour to move on to the next level.
Southend, Palace Theatre 6 Oct 2008
On tonight's display I don't think any reunion could produce a better sound. I know I'll get volleys for this, but that's what I think. They were that good tonight.
Mansfield, Palace Theatre 7 Oct 2008
I was really looking forward to this one. Having seen MTWA on a number of occasions, I have not seen the at all this year for varying reasons and I was looking forward to watching "new boy" Danny on guitar.
MTWA went on and opened with "The King Will Come". Highlights for me were "Throw Down The Sword" and, best of all, "Phoenix". Some lovely guitar work from Danny here (and Ray of course). The gold top Gibbo sounded sweet throughout and I was impressed with Danny's playing. Ray was his usual excellent self, MT's vocals seems to get better and better and Rob was up to his usual brilliant standard. The set went down really well to a knowledgeable and enthusiastic crowd, and a great turnout it was too. Must also add the sound/mix was spot on!
Yet another excellent gig. I'm looking forward to my next which will be at Nottingham Concert Hall. Just wanted to end by saying it was great to have a chat with the band after the gig
Monmouth, Blake Theatre 8 Oct 2008
Two shows within easy reach for me, so after the thrills of Cardiff last weekend, decided to to take in Monmouth as well. A more intimate theatre than Cardiff, but a quality venue with nice acoustics. MTWA's performance again was top flight. Great playing, MT in as good voice as I've ever heard him. For those concerned with his sartorial elegance, the white suit has made a return (he had been in black at Cardiff) and he sported an unusual shirt with playing cards all over it! No jokers in Martin's pack though - and this was the real deal for sure. As in Cardiff, Mart came out and signed autographs in the interval. I also spotted him chatting to Geoff Downes of Asia for quite a while in the foyer and Mart mentioned Geoff's presence and his appearance on the new Argus during the show.
Lee Van Streem
Bolton, Albert Halls 10 Oct 2008
Absolutely brilliant. The set was the same as previously posted on other threads. Well played,well sung and well received. Some great touches though. A 4 part acapella harmony at the end of "Warrior" which was on a par with CSN&Y in their prime and the first 2 solo's in Jailbait where Ray and Danny finger each others frets - if you know what I mean!! Danny has also injected a great deal of humour into the band and it was a joy being so close (we were on the 2nd row) watching 4 excellent musicians clearly enjoying themselves on a bigger stage in front of a large crowd. "Phoenix" - Danny played most of the lead on this with Ray playing the end solo after the plinky-plinky on the frets section. Vocals were very good. The band go from strength to strength. The audience loved them.
I attended this accompanied by two lovely ladies, my daughter Jessie, who is 10 and Julie who is of course a couple of years older. The hall was packed. Setlist as previously mentioned, but wow, how the band have gelled since I last saw them. Danny Willson's contribution is now huge and what a talent he is. Great singing, great playing, now looks totally comfortable and relaxed, and might just become the star turn in the band. Him and Ray larking about playing each others guitars is fun.
The ending to "Warrior" was awesome with the band stopping playing to sing 4 part harmony for the last few refrains, then slamming out the last few chords. Left the crowd stunned for for a couple of seconds, then rapturous applause. "Phoenix" was the encore, a condensed version (it was 1973 when I last heard this live:sad:), in the sense that the more self-indulgent areas were removed. Danny played the lead, Mart hit the high notes like he was 21 again to dispel any ideas that he can't do it any more. Huge applause. Seemed a complete shame to end it there.
A great moment when one of the Focus fans near us said to his mates in a thick (think Peter Kay) Bolton accent, "I tell you what though: Wishbone Ash were bluddy brilliant!". That tells you all you need to know really.
Martin (Timperley Ash)
Part of the live Wishbone experience is meeting up with friends and getting the opportunity to mix with the band for a little while after the show. Last night was particularly enjoyable on that score with a host of fine people there. Long after their set we simply forgot we were standing in a now largely empty foyer chatting away whilst the rest of the audience enjoyed Focus.
MTWA - an absolute treat: you expect tight, stunning guitar and bass interplay and superlative drumming as standard from the band but they raised the bar again. Martin certainly sang the hell out of each song (the best I’ve heard him!) but the vocal harmonies were genuinely sensational; they somehow added another layer to the material, wresting new nuances of emotion from those old songs. Near the end of "Warrior" they cut the instruments and sang the final refrain a cappello - the effect was startling; hairs stood up on the back of my neck! "Jail Bait" was a hoot and then, all too soon, it was the last song. I had some trepidation at the old bird being resurrected once more but it proved great to hear “Phoenix” sang so beautifully - and structured with perfect economy - no looseness or self indulgence; it just sparkled.
Generally, Ray seems to have acquired a new toughness in some of his playing- his breaks had an attack that I hadn’t registered before; Danny seems to have liberated him somehow. Danny himself was immaculate. I came out of the hall buzzing.
Overall another a fine night of rock music and a palpable fresh “reboot” of some classic WA material by MTWA! They do recreate the genuine Wishbone Ash 1970's sound and vibe but increasingly they do more than tha t- it's a vital, compelling live show where the band impose their own selves onto the songs; it's been something of a journey with the band and it's increasingly rewarding. Can't wait for the full show when they have 2 whole hours to stretch their wings.
Goodness gracious - ow's about that then - would you like to give that man a Jim'll Fix it Badge....uhouhouhouhouho etc etc (further Jimmy Savile impression). Well, yes I would like a Jim'll fix it badge because the Bolton show was an absolute stonker and felt very much like a boyhood dream being realised. Yep - it was that good. The best MTWA performance that I have ever seen. What was a real treat was seeing the guys having a right rollicking good time up there on a proper stage, in a proper hall. The band is so tight now that they can really let rip - a couple of years ago they were concentrating so hard that the stage presence was a bit lacking (apart from the main man) but now it is there in spades.
"Phoenix" was just mind-blowing - the hairs were standing up so much on the back of my neck, I completely forgot that I was a baldie for at least 5 minutes. The set was much too short and MTWA should have been on last. Oh, and hats off to Mart's sound man - it was perfect. Great banter with Martin & Ray in particular which made me miss most of the Focus set. Fantastic.
Dudley, Concert Hall 12 Oct 2008
MTWA came on to super intro music and I watched the set with Mick at the mixer. Don't ask me what the set list was!!! Lots of Argus, Superb "Throw Down The Sword", "Jailbait", "Living Proof" and the birdie song at the end! Brill set with fab sound from Mick in a cavernous venue. Well done to all.
Northampton, Derngate Centre 14 Oct 2008
This is a great venue. I've been here a few times and tonight came with a bunch of us, looking forward to the show. They were looking forward to this one as we knew that MTWA is getting rave reviews for playing the old stuff as it should be played, just like Wishbone Ash.
We weren't disappointed. Professional entry, house lights down, on they come to dramatic intro music and soon we're into "The King Will Come", Ray picked out by the spotlight. Danny hitting all the right Ted notes. Next song the highlight of the entire evening. "Warrior" has never sounded better, the barbershop bit at the end was breathtaking. There's a Greek name for this that someone used but I've forgotten it. It was all four guys singing without the instruments. Brought the hairs up on my neck, so it did.
Come to think of it, the next song was joint highlight, you could hear the three harmony leads of the "Sword" intro, staggering vocals again, staggering in their brilliance, and then a twin guitar for all the outro, I've heard good stories about their treatment of this and again it was as good as I've ever heard, in near forty years of watching many versions of the band. Also a reminder that Wishbone were as known for their vocal harmonies as they were for guitar harmonies. Don't forget that most bands at the time like Purple, Zep, Free, ELP, Hendrix, were all one voice, no backing vocals, then Wishbone came along with three part harmonies. Just listen to Argus for proof of the harmonies.
"Blowing Free", "Living Proof", "Jailbait" and a note perfect "Phoenix" finished the evening. Mart's vocals in "Phoenix" were as good as the album, and the energy of the song made it a delight.
Afterwards, Mart was a real gentleman and I heard him tactfully dodge questions about a reunion and was very diplomatic about answering other questions. Mart also thanked folks for their support over 40 years. Very classy. It would have been so easy for Mart to get an ego buzz, or get a bit leery, but he was class throughout.
MTWA were a grade A showstopper, perfect for that important middle slot of a co-headliner which the billing made clear. At this rate they'll go from strength to strength and from the flyers on the merch desk, count me in for Argus shows next year.
Final thing, as Mart strode out onto the large stage, with dim lighting, with dramatic intro music, wearing a white suit like John Lennon in Imagine, you couldn't help but be impressed that here was a genuine rock God, a genuine real deal if you like. Stunning.
This show was BRILLIANT!! MTWA were amazing and they really deserved to be the headline act, they created such energy with their performance and really have a great rapport on stage. You just have to have a good time with them! The only disappointment was that they only had time to do 7 songs (to be fair this did include "Phoenix"!!). "Warrior" was indeed stunning and my personal highlight of the set. As Biggles says, the four-part vocal harmonies were beautiful - Martin has teamed up with some extremely talented musicians and he still has great stage presence.
It was only my second time seeing MTWA (although I have been a Wishbone Ash fan since the 70's) and I love their stunning faithful renditions of the old favourites. As long as Martin continues to play great music and be as charming as he was in the foyer on Tuesday night, I shall hopefully go to many more of his shows in the future!
I just feel privileged to have access to such a wealth of great Wishbone Ash music.
Salisbury, City Hall 15 Oct 2008
Hadn't intended getting to another CLoR show, but decided at the last minute to make the trek across to Salisbury. It was business as usual for our boys and I won't duplicate superlatives, etc, other than to say that the inclusion of the "a capulco" harmonies in "Warrior" is a real masterstroke and worth the price of admission in itself. These were first rate four-part harmonies of prime-time Beach Boys quality. Can't think of any time when WA vocal work has impressed me so much. I say that not to disgrace any other incarnation but to emphasise the added dimension this brings to the music. Other line-ups of course, have their own strengths.
Lee Van Streem