A R T I C L E S
a n d I N T E R V I E W S
Tour Reviews - Argus Tour 2009 (Part 1)
Greece 5-9 January
Martin Turner Diary:
Last time we went out there it snowed in Athens - very rare! This time - got up at 5am to snow here. Made it down the hill in a lightly laden van - just. Main roads were OK so got to Stanstead with Dave (new drummer) and who do we meet in the car park - Ray and Danny. Good timing!
Slept on the flight, met promoter at Athens airport, hotel, off to gig, soundcheck, bite to eat, gig at 10.30pm. Great gig, good to be back in Greece but I hadn't bargained on Dave's daughter Cassie - what a Minx. She is a lovely gal, runs a bar with her ol' man in Athens, so, its "gotta go back to the bar for a wee drink", despite not getting finished at the gig till 1.30am. She was thrilled to see her Dad and beer after beer arrived along with some wonderful food, then the shots started arriving and I'm thinking "Oh God, here we go". Staggered back to Hotel about 5am, which is when we started out if I remember right.
Day 2 - in Athens again - Man, I could sleep all day, I did most of it and now it's "Have I seriously got to play a gig tonight in this state?" Of course it was fine, better than night one, and then its back to Cassie's bar and do it all again.
Day 3 - up early for a nice little svenhour schlepp up north to Thessalonika. Wel,l after a nice long drive cramped up in a little bus we deviated from the schedule to pop out to a TV production which was located in a kind of industrial estate on the edge on Thesalonika. I met the main chap last year when I did an interview with him for radio and I understand that him and his friend now host a satirical show ripping the mick out of current events, the government, politics generally and anything else they fancy.
Of course, given the recent shooting of a young 15 year old lad and the outpouring of frustration generally it was no surprise when they asked us to perform " Warrior". I wondered if "Lullaby" might be a better choice to try and calm things down a bit but no, we gave em both barrels although the sentiment expressed doesn't seem to have got them back out chucking petrol bombs around, thank God. There is in Greece considerable angst among the populace about the unjust educational system, lack of decent wages, corruption with the Police and fuddy duddy government. I did get my ear bent somewhat when enquiring - I've become very fond of the Greeks and clearly they deserve better, hopefully it will come.
Back to the TV station - it being located where it was and the fact that they had been working a long day when we showed up, there was a lack of refreshment available and I managed to sing OK on the run-through but I searched all over for a drink and could find nothing. I do need a bit of throat lubrication, so when we did the actual recording my vocal chords were as dry as a nun's knickers. I did the best I could under the circumstances but I havnen't seen the show - hopefully it was OK. I do remember there being a rather provocative young minx in the make-up room who was posing in front of the mirror - she is a co-presenter apparently. I did get me hands on her for a minute.
One more thought - there are two ways of looking at the TV, one is at the screen and the other is at the camera. You don't get paid for looking at the screen, mores the pity, we'd all be rich if you did !
Thessalonika - lovely city, even better gig, decent hotel, finally got a good shower! Successfully captured some plastic boxes to put sticky Baclava in for UK
Day 4 - up early and scoot back down south to Petra. Boy, food on the road was great and you wonder what must people think when they come to the UK and stop for a bite at our motorway establishments? Petra gig was a whacky one - dodgy stage, rinky dink gear, noddy acoustics, but we did the biz and they seemed to love it, so all good.
Day 5 - off to Agrinio. Different, kinda tight little club run by a good bunch, fantastic decor, skulls on the walls, fascinating toilet graffiti etc. Gig was well - intense, packed, had a geezer 2 feet in front of me singing all the Argus lyrics very loud and out of tune. Hard work for me, I did think about whackin' him in the head with me Viking longship but I didn't. They all smoke in Greece - indoors, lots of it this night. As I took a breath to sing some twonk hit me full on with his exhaled smoke and I got it in stereo owing to the over zelous DJ in charge of the smoke machine. That sweet hooligan (Dave's daughter) had driven over from Athens for the last gig and so it was "we have to go find a bar afterwards". "Ugh, just one drink for me, hot chocolate," I said. The beers flowed for hours, then the shots - we had a lovely last night. On arriving back at Hotel, 5.30am-ish, I realised we have to be up early again so just had time to repack bags before breakfast. Got loaded into two vehicles and as our driver left a garage he clipped the kerb and the back tyre promptly deflated - so did we on realising we've now gotta unload all bags and instruments to get the bloody spare wheel out. Despite a bent wheel brace we got back on the road somewhat late now and had a stimulating ride through the mountains then down a 2 lane highway with trucks 18 ins on either side and us flying down the middle at 90mph. The motorway into Athens was looking good until I saw a bloke walking out into the outside lane with his hand up in that "Halt" gesture. I'd noticed we were doing 160 clicks which is 100mph and I thought this guy must be out of his tiny mind expecting us to stop. It was the long arm of the law he was holding up and he did have to leap out of the way as we slammed on the anchors. I went out with our young driver and we managed to negotiate a reduction of the 480 Euro fine and 6 month ban. Tell him we are an English rock band, late for the sky, puncture, hang over etc. Young stroppy cop, proud of uniform and pistol on his belt, but he came through and did the driver for 70 Euros and forgot the ban. Even got to the airport on time - all good. I'm thinking that Gypsy woman must have meant it when she said I had a charmed existence. Later that day back to Blighty and a good cup of tea with my mad family.
Ah, but I do look forward to the joys of the road again soon,
Love to all,
Great show in Cardiff last night. A new venue to the area, a nice place already attracting some big names. The crowd were very spirited and gave the band fantastic support.
And what of MTWA themselves. Martin announced the tour onstage as being theatNEAT tour - Never Ending Argus Tour. So as this is more of a continuation of last years tour rather than a new outing, it would be unrealistic to expect too many set changes, but the first set was kept fresh with the addition of "Phoenix" and "Persephone", replacing "Time and Space", "Lost Cause" and "Everybody Needs a Friend" from last years Argus shows.
The band get better each time I see them. Ray was solid as ever - he really has become MT's secret weapon, his playing is now so dependable and never disappoints. Danny again proved what a worthwhile addition he is to the band especially vocally. And of course all eyes were on new drummer Dave Wagstaffe. How would he fit in? Well, rest easy. He is the perfect choice. Close enough to the Steve/Rob style, yet adding enough of his own style to keep things fresh. Nice looking (and great sounding) rack-mounted kit as well. Rob is a tough act to follow, but Dave did not let the side down. Only criticism would be that his vocal mic was not high enough in the sound mix. When he could be heard he was clearly putting out some great harmonies yet much of the time his vocal seemed to be much lower than the rest of the band in the mix. The sound quality overall though was fantastic, MT's voice loud and clear and each instrument clearly defined. Nice work Mick the soundman.
As for MT - what can be said that hasn't been said before. The guy simply epitomises everything that was GREAT about Wishbone Ash music. Keep up the great work Mart, your band is like an oasis in the Wishbone desert. Hope the rest of the tour goes as well as this first gig, and hope to get to at least one more.
Oh, almost forgot. In the sartorial department, MT left the trademark white suit at home and instead sported black jacket, flowery turquoise shirt and black leather trousers. He looked every bit the classic rock star.
Lee Van Streem
Last saw MTWA at Cheltenham last Oct. on the Classic Legends of Rock Tour. Was so impressed I came to The Globe at Cardiff. Have a mate in Rhondda Valley who also came to Cheltenham. Absolutley brilliant! Sound clear as a bell and there was much singing and dancing along to the band. Great venue. Intimate and well laid out with long bar at the back.
Yeehaa! MTWA are on in the Rhonnda Valley March 26th. We'll be there. Taking my mates 16 year old son this time. Guarantee he'll be impressed. So three generations to see MTWA. I first saw Wishbone Ash in Cheltenham about 1970.Pilgrimage was just out I think. Don't try and guess my age!
Glasgow, The Arches 25 Feb 2009
Well, the latest stretch of new live dates is off to a flyer!
Wow, what a night. MTWA were in fantastic form at Glasgow - and rockin' in full effect too. I just got home and a few notches have definitely been shaved off my hearing, which is just as it should be. A great rock 'n' roll band.
It was a pleasure to watch the boys tonight. They obviously have such a lot of fun playing together - literally, when Ray and Danny did the playing-each-others-guitars bit of fretboard tomfoolery, which had everybody grinning. Mart himself ("On bass, Miss Martina Turner," sez Danny during the band intros!) was in full rock star mode, looking cool in quickly-removed jacket, hair ornamentation and a shirt Tom Selleck would have been proud to sport during his Magnum PI days. The MT pipes were in good order, as were all the lads' throughout the show, but of course the acapulco ending to "Warrior" in particular was hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck stuff.
First set included "Rest In Peace", "Why Don't We", "Lady Jay", "The Pilgrim", "Persephone" and for me the track that was the highlight of the night, "You See Red". The band were tight and powerful all night, with the volume level pushed just to the edge of distortion and no more - hard and crunchy, so well done to Mick on the desk, but "You See Red" was just unbelievable. Danny's a great singer too, as he proved taking the Laurie vocal part here. Loads of stage presence from Danny too - what a great find he's proving to be.
Dave Wagstaffe keeps up the great tradition of MTWA singing drummer and was rock solid as one half of the engine room. Loads of vocals from DW in fact - I've still never worked out how skinsmen can do that.
Ray is incredible. Some player, and I love it when he gazes ceilingwards and gets lost in the moment - happened a few times at the Arches. Cosmic, mate!
Second set was Argus, of course, the order as on Aegus: Through The Looking Glass. "Well, that's it, innit?" said Martin at the end of "Throw Down The Sword". "Or did we forget one? Oh yeah, I remember now - that song about blowing something.'" Yak yak.
Audience response was brilliant too - right through, to be honest, but particularly on the Argus material. Much grinning and shaking of heads in pleased disbelief from those around me quite a few times tonight. Great crowd who were very vocal, specially on "Blowin Free".
The band were operating under a strict 11pm curfew so it was "Jailbait" for an encore (cue another even louder singalong) and then off. I'd say there were about 200 of us in one of the cavern-like dungeons under Glasgow Central Station. The sound had nowhere to go and just bounced straight back off the walls. Nice. The Arches was looking great, I must say - my first time inside for 14 years and the revamp has paid dividends. A smart venue.
Well played, Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash - 10/10 for performance, song selection, stagemanship and enthusiasm.
Just back from the Arches. Stange gig, I think, largely due to some eccentricities of the venue. Doors opened at 2000hrs but instead of going through to the room itself we were left in another bar just outside the room. Just before 2100hrs people started to drift through and having been hovering near the doors, my son and I managed to get down in front of the stage to find the band ready to start the show. They broke into "Why Don't We" as the audience continued to make their way in.
I had mentioned in a previous post about the Arches being a bigger gig than the Ferry but the band were playing in a smaller room in the venue. You wouldn't notice it was small as the lighting was such that I'm sure the band couldn't see much beyond the front of the stage. And with an over-exuberant smoke machine and pretty inadequate lighting, the band must have been difficult to see by those further back. The front lights were generally off during performance, with only lights at the side of or behind the players resulting in them looking like silhouettes for much of the time. Wasn't such a problem for me being down the front, but it also impacted on the pictures that Martin (my son, not MT) was taking.
I got the impression that the stage setup was not entirely to the bands liking and I think it took a few numbers to settle in. However, "Lady Jay" hit the heights and the band clicked in fully after this. One disappointment was that we didn't get "Phoenix". Not sure if this was because of any curfew requirements but it was a shame as this was one of the two numbers I hadn't seen performed by MTWA before - I'd have preferred "You See Red" to have been dropped leaving "Phoenix" to finish the first set but that's just a personal (and selfish) opinion. "You See Red" was in any event sublimely played anyway.
The interval was pretty short (perhaps suggesting the time limitations were curfew-related) and, as before, much of the audience were wandering back in as "Time Was" kicked off. All of Argus was as good as ever, although I think the damned smoke machine was impacting on Martin on a couple of occasions. They managed to get it switched off eventually.
All in all, an excellent evening's entertainment but with the edge knocked off a little by some of the venue's little oddities. Better quality lighting and being able to see more than six feet in front of ourselves would have made a huge difference. I think the turnout was larger than had been at The Ferry last July and being in a smaller room made for a better atmosphere (non-smoke related this time)
Newcastle, The Cluny 26 Feb 2009
It were great! Sorry - I've only got a minute to write this but.... we got a great opening set; featuring "The Pilgrim", "Rest In Peace" and "Persephone" and then the Argus set. No surprises then for us regulars but a very good crowd indeed cheered the band to the rafters. I took another another first time MTWA attendee and he was awfully quiet for the whole first set. I asked him what he thought and he said it was f***ing amazing!
It would be nice to think Martin stands in front of the venue to welcome each of us in (as he did) but in truth it is of course the anti-smoking law that enforced MT to act as both doorman and main event! He did both jobs very well; lovely fellow as he is!
York, Fibbers 27 Feb 2009
A great gig by this band who just keep getting better. Excellent sound out there in the crowd from Mr. Howett for a venue which certainly wasn't designed with acoustics in mind. Martin was on good form - musically and in terms of banter with the audience; Ray playing blindingly (even if he did have an ugly spider sitting on his guitar headstock); Danny continues to surprise and delight with his great humour and demonic fretwork (and warbling) and, having been worried about missing Rob, Dave is an excellent replacement and a thoroughly nice guy to boot (although you wouldn't actually do the latter when you see how big he is).
Something like my sixth MTWA gig since 06. I came with three friends, one of which was a recent convert based on a listen to Argus. Unfortunately we arrived half way through "Why Don't We" so we didn't have the chance to cherry pick a position. The stage could have done with being a bit higher. Good head views but a bit awkward to see any fret work. The venue was a bit concrete and that's the only way to describe it.
The gig itself was great: as always. Really pleased to hear "Rest in Peace" which I liked from first listen to Locked In. "Lady Jay" was powerful. I especially enjoyed the harmonising on this one. Would have liked to heard "Phoenix" but I guess I'll just have to wait.
Argus as a whole is beautiful and the time just seems to fly by. Wonderful playing and singing. I've seen this band a few times now. The gigs get better and better. The audience reaction gets better and better. The "2,3,4" bit in "Blowin' Free" resulted in much pogoing from the audience. I've not seen that before.
My friends were very impressed. The new convert was buzzing and would love to see this band again. Hope to get to another gig very soon.
Liverpool, Baby Blue 1 March 2009
Travelled down the M62 last night for this in the company of my brother, who has been a WA fan back in the 70s, but not seen or heard anything since then . Baby Blue is located at the Albert Dock warehouse complex, (which you may remember from Richard and Judy's TV show a few years back where that daft Fred bloke used to do the weather forecast jumping around his floating map in the dock). The venue was in the basement area and had a distinct feeling of being a 'cavern' which was quite fitting for being in the home of the Beatles.
Set list as above with, for me, "Lady Jay" and "Persephone" being the standouts in the first half and "Sometime World" and "Warrior" the standouts in the Argus set. Very enthusiastic crowd, knew most of the songs and generally had a great time. The band's rendition of the set is now outstanding and it's hard to believe that Dave on the skins is a new addition. His drumming was faultless, and my only concern for Dave was that he would bang his head on the low roof at the encore. He is a tall guy!!
But never mind my comments. My brother had been a bit sceptical in the car on the way, and why not? Why should these guys be much good after all this time. But he was absolutely knocked out by what he saw and heard, amazed at the quality of the playing, singing, tightness of the band, and how easy they made it look. But most of all how much they were Wishbone Ash, as he remembered them.
Absolutely bloody fantastically perfect!
This band is absolutely cooking and it was a brilliant night (even the Baby Blue Community Choir didn't put Mart and the boys off what they were doing)
Best moment - all of it. Funniest moment - Mart trying to take his specs off and forgetting he'd taped his in-ear monitors to them!
What a fantastic night it was! The Flowerpot isn't the best venue for acoustics, but Mick rose to the challenge and did a sterling job. A great sound from the band, with every note clearly heard and Martin's bass exactly where it should be in the mix.
Keith Buck was back for this one, and it was great to see him pairing up with Ray again. Rob Hewins was in the audience, so we could have had an MTWA Mark 1 reunion, but didn't. New drummer Dave was very impressive (and very tall).
What can I say about the music? "Why Don't We" a nice tight opener as usual. "Rest In Peace" was the best I've ever heard them play it. And the end solo of "Throw Down The Sword" is sublime. The only small criticism I'd make is that the setlist is becoming a little familiar. A couple of new additions would have been nice. But then that's coming from someone who sees the band 2 or 3 times a year, and I suppose I'm not a typical fan.
Anyway, great gig. Next up hopefully Worcester
I just wanted to thank Martin and his band for a fantastic show at the Flowerpot. I've followed Wishbone Ash since New England but this was the first time I'd ever seen Martin's band. MTWA played easily the best WA show I've seen since the Laurie Wisefield days. I came with three friends who were not big fans but they all went home converted. Thank you Martin, thank you all the guys in the band. We will be back.