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 2)
Southampton, The Brook 6 March 2009
Fabulous set from Martin and the boys at the Brook last night. What can say that others havent said about the shows so far. The band just gets better and better. The new drummer Dave Wagstaffe is fantastic, probably the closest in sound to Steve Upton of all WA drummers yet, which was fine by me. The place was packed, at least double the numbers from the time I saw them here in November 07, with the upstairs balcolny and bar open this time. Highlight for me was "Phoenix", beautifully performed. Up until recently only one guitarist has ever pulled this off for me (Ted), but Mr Willson, you nailed it perfectly, you're a star.
If there was one criticism it would be that the Argus themed set is now getting a little stale and I will welcome the time when the NEAT tour (Never Ending Argus Tour) ends and the band get back to playing a more wider selection of material from all the albums. I found myself missing songs like "Everybody Needs a Friend", "Time and Space", "Sorrel" and "Lifeline" and of course there are many more that would be worthy of inclusion - give us some different Just Testing or No Smoke songs next time, Martin. But, I'm speaking as one fan who's seen the band several times. For anyone seeing the band for the first time last night was probably just the ticket. At least we got a new joke (and a couple of old ones - the dyslexia and "Warrior"-poof skits being reeled out again....), MT saying "Leaf and Stream" was written by Steve Upton about some Dutch dyke constructer named Lee van Stream.
In my opinion, The Brook in Southampton is one of the best venues in the South of England. The sound system is second to none, though I must confess I have been there before when the volume was teetering on painful. It is has a high stage, so that wherever you stand in the auditorium, and whoever is standing in front of you, you still have a clear view of the performers. In addition, there is also a mezzanine, once the designated smoking area, but now there's tables and chairs up there for the more sedate concert-goer. The mezzanine floor runs round three sides of the building, allowing you to get right up above the stage and still get a brilliant view. There's a bar on each floor as well, so you don't have to spend all evening running up and down the stairs.
The Brook attracts some pretty big names and many bands return again and again. Amongst the regulars are both Wishbone Ash and Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash
Martin Turner, original Ash bassist and singer, formed Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash in late 2005. All four original Wishbone members have rights to the name "Wishbone Ash", though Andy Powell continues to trade under that name. Both Andy Powell's and Martin Turner's line ups are equally brilliant. It would be very hard to say which was better, but if pushed, I'd have to say that Martin's has the slight edge. Andy Powell's band are still very much active, writing and playing a lot of new material so there's less time to keep the fans happy with older material.
Martin Turner's band though sticks to their original ethos: to play almost exclusively the classic tracks from Wishbone's back catalogue. Trouble is, in almost fourty years, Wishbone have produced a vast wealth of absolutely beautiful songs, so there are far too many songs for one band to play in any one night. Martin Turner and his band have recorded two live albums from their recent tours, and yet hardly any of the songs that they played at the Brook are covered by either album.
If you ask anyone to list their favorite ten Wishbone tracks they may include "Lifeline", "Cosmic Jazz", "Outward Bound" and so on. Well, all of those you'll find on the live albums. Tracks that people will almost certainly list amongst their favorites, though, are "Phoenix", "The Pilgrim", "Jail Bait", and every single track from their Argus album.
And that was precisely what the band played on Friday.
There aren't many albums that are such classics that they would warrant being played live some thirty years later. Fairport Convention's Leaf and Liege, and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon are the only two other albums I know of where this has been done. Both of these, though, are one off events, whereas this is the second year now that Martin been playing Argus in its entirety to packed out audiences. In fact, Martin is calling this tour "NEAT", standing for Never EndingArgus Tour, and let's hope it never does.
Martin Turner exudes charisma. All four of them exude talent. Dave Wagstaffe, on drums, only recently joined the band, (December last year), and Danny Willson, guitarist, joined last summer, but together, with Ray Hatfield, also on guitar, they are extremely tight. Yet they still had fun. At one stage, Danny came over and started to play Ray's guitar at the same time that Ray was also playing it. During a short percussion solo, Ray picked up a bottle and tapped that so as to join in. All very entertaining.
For the first set, they played various old favorites, then for the second set, rather than playing some Elvis, as someone from the audience wittily requested, they played Argus in it's entirety. They made one slight change to the running order, moving "Blowin' Free" to the finale, so as to end on a crescendo. They have recently re-recorded a studio version of Argus, released as Argus Through the Looking Glass, and they've made the same change to the running order there too.
It was obvious how much they enjoyed playing, and the audience loved it. The applause after the first track was louder and longer than many bands get as a call for an encore.
Pete Bradley, Fatea Records magazine website
Wolverhampton, Robin 2, Bilston 7 March 2009
I showed myself up to be a very sad person by standing right at the front at least 30 minutes before the show was due to start, but I'm short and wanted to get some photos...so that's my justification.
The set was as listed and, as it is only the third time I've seen MTWA, I really enjoyed it. I LOVE the rocky version of "Rest In Peace" and "Lady Jay" is quite special to me because I come from near Jay's Grave on Dartmoor and know the legend very well. "The Pilgrim" was my highlight from the first half...Maurice's playing at the beginning was just beautiful. "Phoenix" was excellent and contained an interesting accompaniment from MT on the J2O bottles! Superb first half which built up the excited anticipation for the Argus set to come.
The crowd were very enthusiastic and appreciative and the friendly bunch down at the front were great fun! I'm going to give my other half a mention here as it was nice to have his company...he was not well enough to come with me in July. His favourite "Time Was" was well up to standard and I thought that Martin's bass playing was particularly stunning on this one.
For the record, the a capella bit was present at the end of "Warrior" - well done, Martin, for managing to have three colleagues with good voices. Maurice looked a bit more relaxed playing the Argus material - I'm showing my ignorance because I don't know his background - but he did great job last night. Danny is a very hard act to follow and I did not envy Maurice having to fill his shoes. Ray played a fabulous set from start to finish - I enjoy his playing even more each time I hear him. I couldn't see Dave very well from behind his huge drum-kit but I could certainly hear him - he is a very powerful drummer and sounds to be settling in well. Martin was a complete star all night - great playing, superb vocals and his usual fun self on stage.
The end of the set was explosive - "Blowin' Free" is one of my all-time favourite cheer-up songs and it really got the crowd going. Followed in the encores by a fantastic "Living Proof" and "Jailbait" - MTWA truly got the Robin rocking as Martin instructed.
All in all - an evening of fabulous music, fun and a great atmosphere. Thanks to Martin and Ray for taking time to sign my CD at the end. Brilliant!!!
Ipswich, Regent Theatre 13 March 2009 (special guests of Golden Eaaring)
What a pleasure to see MTWA again. Set was restricted as support band but the whole of Argus was played beautiifully. Thank you Martin for keeping the memories of many great times alive. They had a pretty good reception and there were a lot of fans waiting for Martin in the Foyer during the break
Golden Earring were pretty impressive too - amazing light show and a set of almost 2 hours. The audience were old heavy and hairy incuding the ladies, but provided a great atmosphere. Obviously a large contiingent from Holland.
London, Shepherd's Bush Empire 14 March 2009 (special guests of Golden Earring)
The band came on, to be greeted with a real big hand of applause. I must say I was really curious how the band would sound, it's been a while since I saw them last, and at that tme Rob and Keith were still in the line up.
To start of with Danny, he totally convinced me. The harmonies are so much better with him in the line up, and also his guitar playing is excellent. He really looked comfortable, like he has been playing those songs for ages. Also the clowning around between him and Ray was a nice addition.
Then Dave, it's so ungrateful to be the man on the skins. The guitar man always gets his place in the spotlight; the drummer has to earn that with hard solid work. Couldn't catch him doing anything wrong. When "Blowing Free" was played I saw the potential and power that Dave can bring. You really delivered mate, especially considering the time you've been in this band.
Than about the gig itself. I was really impressed with what they did. Mart's voice was better than I've heard before. Allthough the set list is not my favourite one (I've heard too much Argus from various sources the last half year), they really excecuted it to perfection. Different but good.
The crowd, including some 50 odd, crazy Earring fan countrymen of mine really seemed to enjoy what was brought on stage. Nowhere did I get the impression that it was "just" a support band that was tolerated. Allthough the majority of the people clearly were there for the Earring, Mart and the other boys got all the appreciation they deserved.
Walking around between the punters in the period between bands gave the all round impression that the show was appreciated by all.
I had the time of my life and am fortunate enough to do it all over again 3 times next weekend.