A R T I C L E S
a n d I N T E R V I E W S
Tour Reviews - The Argus Tour (Part 2 - March-July 2008)
Worcester, Huntingdon Hall 28 March 2008
I'd seen MTWA ten times before last night, but I have to say that this was the BEST YET!!!! Partly that was down to the venue. Much better than some of the small clubs they've played in. The acoustics were superb and the place oozed with character - an old church complete with pulpit, organ, pews and Bible verses on the walls. I was on the second row and the gig, although loud, was so well manged soundwise that there was no ringing in the ears afterwards.
But it wasn't just the venue that made it special. The band were really on fire and obviously enjoying themselves. New boy Danny is a tremendous player. I doubt that he had much time to rehearse but he looked like he'd been playing twin lead with Ray for years - the two of them have such a rapport going already. Danny is clearly also quite a joker judging from some of his stage antics. I don't know what the future plans are, but please Danny you have to stay.
I was really glad that "Everybody Needs a Friend" and "Time & Space" were played as they were the two I was hoping for. "The Pilgrim" has never been one of my favourites but it was very well played. Highlights of the Argus set were Ray's stupendous "Sometime World" solos, and the twin lead ending of "Throw Down The Sword".
I sat next to a local chap and his son - the dad hadn't seen Wishbone Ash since the 70s and had a copy of Argus "in the garage." He was really impressed, and I heard other similar comments on the way out afterwards. To sum up - it was a long drive but I'm Sooooo glad I went.
I've just got home this morning after a pleasant drive back from Worcester. On the way I've been reflecting on the gig last night and just what made it so special. The venue is excellent. I should think the band will be back there. Martin commented on how nice it was. The crowd were a really great bunch of people. Fantastic atmosphere from what looked like a sell out. I heard the organisers say they had sold more raffle tickets than ever before. That has to be a good sign! I enjoyed the MC who is obviously a theatrical sort of lady. It was really nice how she introduced the band and made everyone feel at home. Very professional. I got to this gig on the back of having to be in Worcestershire the day before for a Health and safety seminar with expenses paid by my employer. Thanks very much!
I don't think I've EVER heard Martin play so well before. He was on fire last night. He really drove the thing along. I've said it before but I'm SO impressed with Rob and Martin together. Musically and vocally they are in complete unison. It's a combination that has gelled and matured so well over the last three years. This was the first time I'd seen Danny with the band. He has made quite an impact already. He is such a confident and relaxed performer. At least that's how he comes across. I had a brief chat with him after the gig and he says it's really exciting for him to be playing Wishbone Ash music where the focus is on the guitars. He and Ray were outstanding. A couple of little glitches that you'd expect at such an early stage but leaving that aside,this line up looks like it will be a brilliant progression for MTWA. I have absolutely no doubt that we are looking at a very positive development even though there may still be some clashes of tour dates in future for Danny and the band to work around. With all due respect to Keith ( I'm sure he won't mind me saying this) I feel that Danny is not only bring comparable guitaring skills but he will also enhance the band's quality in the vocal department. The harmonies last night were by far the best I've ever heard in any WA line up. Not only that but I'm sure there is more to come as well. Welcome aboard Danny to the good ship 'Wishbone'. Long may you sail with her! This really was a great gig guys. Thanks.
The main arts theatre hall is a good size and was pretty well full, with (by my estimation) around 250-300 folks. And of course the band was different tonight ... NO KEITH. I was well aware Keef had finished his stint with M.T.W.A. during the Dutch gigs and that Danny Willson had more than settled in – but it still looked like something was missing. It was that huge grin. However, one of the Buckster’s final favours to the band was to recommend his successor. Danny was in a word ... superb. To think he had only played a handful of gigs. He strolled though the set, he was brilliant. He sang Laurie’s/Keef’s parts on "You See Red" with confidence and ease, handled harmony vocals elsewhere as a natural, and proved to be a very engaging lead guitarist. In short – a very worthy successor to Keith Buck in every respect. Nice one Danny – nice one Keef. Nice one Cyril...
As usual the first set was a right royal mixture of Ash classics which included (hopefully in order): "Why Don’t We"; "Rest in Peace"; "Lady Jay"; "The Pilgrim"; "Time and Space"; "Everybody Needs a Friend" and "You See Red". That’s quite a challenging roster for any rock guitarist – especially a new band-member – but both messers Hatfield and Willson made it look so simple. Ray has really stepped up to the front at recent gigs. I think everybody would agree with that. It’s almost as if he is egging Danny on. Ray’s confidence and performance have both grown with every passing gig. Danny plays in a slightly different way to Keith but his style is highly appropriate, as he added little flourishes here and there. Martin himself was full of some kind of lurgey but he sang and played with great passion almost to spite it. And of course M.T.W.A.’s secret weapon - Rob - behind the sticks relentlessly pushed the band on.
The whole band played the Argus suite with power and verve. I particularly liked the new touches Danny was adding – the beginning to "The King Will Come" being one good example as he dragged out the wah-wah intro almost challenging the rest of the band to demand he play the climactic riff. Other highlights included Mr Hewins stepping out from behind his kit, donning Stratocaster, and playing third guitar part to "Leaf and Stream" – whilst playing the tambourine with his foot! The chap is a demon one-man orchestra! The real climax of this set is for me – is not the set closer "Blowin’ Free" – but the twin soli section at the end of "Throw Down The Sword". Both Ray and Danny enjoyed this sparring and real energy flowed from the stage. I really don’t know why Wishbone Ash never did this in the classic days. Past live versions of "Throw Down The Sword" always sounded a bit thin to me because of the solo guitar (even though it did have rhythm guitar support) taking the lead. With both guitars soloing in unison the sound gets plenty full enough especially as both guitarists were playing all over the fret board. Anyway the set was brought to a riotous finale as usual with "Blowin’ Free". We didn’t have to wait long to hear the encore which consisted of the now traditional "Living Proof" and "Jail Bait" during which the crowd was encouraged to sing along.
This was the first gig I’ve seen with new member Mr. Willson on board and he gelled perfectly – you would hardly know he hadn’t been part of the collective for the last two years or so. I chatted to the band afterwards and Danny is every bit as nice a bloke as he is a great axeman!
The set was the same as last night and was very well played. Danny seems to be settling in rather well and played great solos on "The King Will Come" and "Living Proof". Ray did an excellent job on "Sometime World". and the finale of "Throw Down The Sword" had Jackie in tears. Martin has a cold but the voice stood up well. A great gig which we really enjoyed.
Highlights for me were "The Pilgrim", one of my all time fave tunes, then the whole of the Argus set really. "Time Was" is always inspirational. Watching Mart play the bass lines on "Sometime World" was an ambition realised and just epitomised what it is all about. "Leaf and Stream" with Rob also playing guitar was truly special too. "The King Will Come", "Warrior", and "Throw Down The Sword" were all outstanding.
Danny impressed me, great guitarist, and much to my suprise my son said that he recognised him . Showaddywaddy have recently been on a kids TV program, The Slammer, where a variety of acts are banged up in jail and have to perform. The winning act gets released. I don't know if the rest of Showaddywaddy are still eating porridge though. So for myself and my son, his first ever live gig, it was a great night. Despite the changes, MTWA march on and I can't wait for the next one.
Basingstoke, Central Studio 5 April 2008
Considering that he was referring to a few notes and getting a fair bit of help from the rest of the band, I thought Maurice did incredibly well to fit in so well at such short notice. He took a number of solos and twinned with Ray to good effect.
The set list was pretty much as previously reported, except "Blind Eye" replaced "Rest In Peace" and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Martin's voice seemed to have more or less recovered from his previously reported cold problems and Ray's playing seems to improve every time I see him - his solo on "Sometime World" was particularly impressive. And what more can be said about Rob on the drums, guitar, vocals, keyboards, flugel horn and spoons (as Martin described him!)? His feat of playing rhythym guitar whilst marking the time on the hi-hat (plus tambourine) and singing was a real feat of dexterity.
The venue was very pleasant also - my first visit there. Very intimate, with about 150 people filling it - all seated, but very informal. Maybe not quite as lively as a standing crowd, but everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy it.
On strolls Mart, Rob, Ray and ... not Danny!!! So Maurice (Douglas) wanders on - brave man I thought, thinking of the two excellent predecessors. Straight into "Why Don't We" and I was really impressed. This guy had it all down. Very good indeed. The set continued with "Blind Eye" (making a welcome return); "The Pilgrim"; "Time And Space"; ... and finally "You See Red" before the break. The venue was a lovely little place. Intimate yes, and nicely done out. Adam It was a very relaxed venue with friendly staff and everybody was made really welcome. I'd recommend it to everybody. It was also the first seated M.T.W.A. gig I've been to.
The second set carried on much like the first. Everybody in very good groove with Ray (now the 'senior' guitarist (guv'nor)) really steppin' out as he has been recently; Maurice showing he knew the stuff really well with some nice solos and frills here and there; Rob as ever doing what only Rob (or Steve) can really do (plus strummin' a bit) and Martin really having a blast on his bass - which was very loud (just as I like it) and upfront - with more vibrato, string bends and hammer-ons than I've seen him do in quite a while. The band were rocking! I'll assume we have no recent arrivals from Mars here and dispense with listing the running order of tracks from the second "Argus" set - suffice to say they were excellently performed and of course "Blowin' Free" ended the proceedings.
The band encored with "Living Proof" followed by Jail Bait when Martin introduced the band - thanked the various staff and Gary on merch etc. and blow me down - even announced to all and sundry that it was my birthday (which it was) and made me one really happy punter in the small crowd assembled. It was great chatting to the guys and nice to actually be at what turned out to be the Spring leg closer of the Argus tour. Nice talking to Maurice Douglas who I have since learnt plays for tribute band Wishblowin' Ash and isn't it great that you can get these guys almost at a minute's notice?! He admitted to being in seventh heaven as a lifelong W.A. fan - a dream come true. I hope we get to see him play again sometime. All in all a very nice evening. Looking forward to the handfull of scattered Summer gigs and of course the Autumn tour.
Hi Everyone, ses its me, Maurice, and thanks to you all for the very nice comments and support from the Basingstoke gig, and a special thanks to Martin, Ray and Rob for inviting me to stand in for Danny. It was a hectic week leading up to the gig and although I knew the Argus stuff I still had to change quite a lot of parts to complement Ray on the night, never the less I had a fantastic time. Hope to see you all again,
Great evening. Maurice did very well indeed. Ray was on top form. Martin's performance was brilliant. All of Argus is actually a pretty spectacular event. Didn't realise just how good it was going to be.
Had a brief chat with Maurice before he went on and he was still pinching himself. He did a sterling job considering the short notice to learn the set material. I thought the sound Ray was getting from his guitar was excellent. He said afterwards he felt he hadn't really played at his best but it was just fine from where i was standing. He did a great job. Can't be easy when you are "sparring" with a newbie after blending so well with Keith for so long. Martin was in superb form and again Rob was solid in the tub thumping and vocal harmonies dept.
Wakefield, Saturn Music Festival, 18 May 2008
This gig was apparently part of a wider (Saturn) festival but you couldn't really tell from the place ... The Snooty Fox in downtown Wakefield. It was a very sharp concert. Everybody was on form. Loved Ray's "Greensleeves" intro to "The King Will Come" - it worked a treat. Martin was in fine fettle - vocally and bassplank -spanking wise and full of entertaining comments which went down well with the enthusiastic crowd. One rather aging wag replied to Mart's comments about theArgus cover - that he was in the flying saucer!!! (You had to be there...). As usual Mr. Hewins powered along this fine little beat combo and for the third time now our old (new) chum Maurice Douglas was back on guest guitar (Danny unfortunately being otherwise disposed).
Howard mentioned the character in the audience. Martin was introducing “Warrior” – telling a story about the gentleman on the front of Argus. Our diminutive senior audience wag interjected several times reminding Martin “and the flying saucer”. Martin acknowledged the saucer and our wag comes straight back “I was in the saucer.” This was hilarious. Actually to look at him you might half believe it!
It's nearly 36 since I first saw MT at Leeds Town Hall on 15 December 1972 and I have followed Wishbone Ash ever since, seeing them in their various incarnations through the years. It was great tonight to hear "The Pilgrim" as Pilgrimage was the first rock album I bought. The versions of "Time and Space" and "Lady Jay" were excellent, but of course the highlight was hearing Argus live. I couldn't fault tonights performance which was the same set as at Rotherham. Those who were there thoroughly enjoyed themseves and gave the band rousing support.
Glasgow, The Ferry 11 June 2008
The Ferry is a small venue, I think at a very rough guess I'd say there might have been about four or five hundred there. It was a nice atmosphere and personally I love these intimate little gigs. I was with a friend and the only Wishbone Ash he knew was Argus. This actually turned out to be good for him as they played the whole album.
Newcsatle, The Cluny 12 June 2008
The gig was great and I had lots of friends in attendance which made for a lovely evening. The band gave a good performance - getting particularly tight on "You See Red" with a spirited "Pilgrim" drawing a great reaction.
The "highlight", if it's proper to call it that, was "Everybody Needs a Friend"; Martin dedicated it to Laureen explaining to the audience that a close friend had died, his "Large Laureen"- as his mobile phone would herald her calls - and that today was her funeral. He sang the song with great feeling and Ray spirited up a quite stunning solo - a beautifully crafted channeling of emotion and loss that lifted the melody to achingly new heights and had me completely choked. Before the evening was over Martin dedicated the performance to Laureen. As a rock and roll MTWA requiem the boys did her proud, rest in peace dear lady.
Must start by saying that I thought the cluny was a good venue, much better than I had been led to believe. A good view of the stage in most places and the sound was also good, particularly down the front.The real ales were a bonus. Despite having to call on a couple of subs, this was still a cracking gig. No matter who else is up there with him, it is just great to see Martin in action on those classic Wishbone tunes, something that for many years was looking very unlikely to happen.
Ray is a stalwart of course, Dave gave a very competent performance and you would never have guessed he was just standing in. I'll openly admit that the main reason i made the journey was to see Maurice play, and he did not disappoint! He took his share of the solos and also played some great twin stuff with Ray, and of course he was grinning like a cheshire cat throughout the entire gig!
A lot of the early criticism of this band was that they were too sterile and playing "note for note". this is becoming less so, and there is more improvisation/flying by the seat of their pants, whatever you want to call it, and generally this is a good thing. "The Pilgrim" and "You See Red" went down particularly well, the first time i have heard "You See Red" sung by Mart.
This was always going to be a very emotional night for all who knew Laureen. Martin had dedicated "Rest In Peace" to her in Glasgow. This night it was "Everybody Needs A Friend". I find it difficult at the best of times not to feel emotional when I hear this song but last night it was almost impossible not to shed a tear. I hope Martin won't mind me saying this but I suspect he was close to tears as well. There was a lot of emotion in his voice. Ray played an amazing, heartfelt solo. Very special. Thanks guys.
It was nice to see Maurice getting good support and encouragement from his friends and family in his home territory. The band were in fine form. Dave has certainly done a great job. Martin's playing was superb and Ray is now playing like a seasoned old hand now. That's a compliment by the way!
All in all, a night of very mixed emotions for me. In a way this was a personal memorial for Laureen from me. I would have gone to the funeral but I sincerely felt that attending the gig on her behalf was what she would have wanted. This was Laureen's night.
Wolverhampton, Robin 2 18 July 2008
Robin 2 is a good sized venue with fine facilities. As I sat outside with the others we watched people stream into the venue and it soon became evident that we would have a full house. It was nice to see that people of all ages and gender made up the audience. Talking to a few I found that original 1970s fans were coming with their children, and these children were familiar with WA.
The set was the same as that at the Cluny the previous month. It was very enjoyable, and the sound was good. Without exception I believe everyone left happy and satisfied by an excellent concert.
Great to see Gary, Mick, Rob and Danny again having not seen them for some time and of course it’s always good to see Martin (& Martin) and Ray.
At breakfast the next day the feedback continued to be positive – one question that was asked was “Why didn’t they perform Argus in full 30 years ago?” Opinion continues to be split as to whether "Blowin’ Free" should be at the end.
Despite being a Wishbone Ash fan since 1974, I had never seen MTWA before and I thoroughly enjoyed their performance. Obviously hearing Argus in its entirety is really special. "Sometime World" always moves me to tears and "Blowin' Free" is my favourite 'feel good' song. I'm undecided about its position at the end of the set, though. Rob's clever-d**k performance in "Leaf & Stream" was impressive - playing guitar and keeping time with his left foot by playing a cymbal with a tambourine on top!! Who says that men can't multi-task!!? I really enjoyed hearing "The Pilgrim" and "Everybody Needs A Friend" in the first half. I recently visited Jay's Grave (as it is near my parents' house) so it was a great surprise to hear "Lady Jay". Great show, guys.
Cambridge Rock Festival, 19 July 2008
Being inside it had all the benefits of an outside festival, e.g. the stalls, without the mud. Nice walking around the stalls and the animal sanctuary in the sunshine. Several interesting stalls; from one I bought a lovely little musical instrument that I keep playing with.
Lovely to see Martin, Ray, Rob and Danny on stage again (and Mick behind a huge mixing desk) - well it had been 18 hours since I last had the pleasure. Argusalways sounds so good , no matter how many times I hear it, and "Jailbait" is the ideal encore.
The day, and evening, was a wonderful experience - met some interesting people, and some amusing musicians. My only sadness is that it may be a while before I get to see them all perform together again. But this is so my favourite band, and my support is to be continued ...
Southend on Sea, Club Riga 25 July 2008
Just to let everyone know that the final date of the Argus tour at Club Riga Southend went very well. It was a single set with "Living Proof" left out, and "Blowing Free" finishing off the set, before encores of "You See Red" and "Jailbait". Martin was in a good mood, making several jokes throughout the evening. Danny Willson played excellently and has a strong vocal as well. Ray Hatfield seems to be more noticeable in the solos and Rob Hewins played his socks off as usual. All in all a great evening despite the heat and lack of air conditioning!