1969 was the year that witnessed legendary events such as the Apollo 11 moon landing, Woodstock Festival and also The Beatles last public performance on the roof of Apple Records.
This was also the year that Wishbone Ash started on their journey to stardom. And just like we have reflected on key events of those times, the prog-rock giants are currently on the road celebrating and reminiscing on the last 50 years of their career.
Tonight Andy Powell and company arrives on Tyneside for a sold-out show in Hall Two at Sage Gateshead. And with such unprecedented demand for tonight’s concert, the band has already booked a return date in the main hall alongside fellow prog-rock legend Jan Akkerman from Focus at the start of 2021.
From the top of the evening, those in attendance are walked down memory lane with a nostalgic video presentation that showcases key events from throughout the band’s 50-year career. Spanning almost 15 minutes in duration, this pre-show highlight reel perfectly sets the scene for the night ahead.
As has become customary Powell arrives on stage grasping his Flying V, as he leads the quartet into Real Guitars Have Wings. A fitting number based upon Andy’s instrument of choice.
But it’s a trio of numbers from the band’s most commercially successful album Argus that is a highlight early in the evening. The unmistakable sounds of King Will Come, Throw Down The Sword and the incredibly infectious Sometime World follow suit.
But even after reaching their landmark 50th anniversary the band still has something to say as they prepare to release their new studio album Coat of Arms next year. We are informed that the record has been mastered at the legendary Abbey Rd Studios this week. Subsequently, the band previews new single and protest song We Come As One, as a taster for what is to come. And it’s certainly commendable to see bands such as Wishbone Ash using their voice and platform to challenge the troubling issues of these unprecedented times.
Obviously, Wishbone Ash has been visiting the North East for many years, and Powell recollects nights at the Newcastle City Hall and also playing alongside Rory Gallagher in the region. But he also has a lot of admiration for Sage Gateshead and in particular the sound inside this room. He declares that the band should be recording this. So who knows a new live album may come to fruition in the not too distance future.
Wishbone Ash closes out their first set with an epic and harmonious airing of The Way of the World. And following a brief interlude, the four-piece returns to the stage for the second half. And what better way to kick things off than by taking the Gateshead crowd back to the beginning of the band with the very first song they ever wrote together – Blind Eye. This bluesy number typifies what Wishbone Ash is all about with their textbook twin part guitar harmonies featuring prominently throughout.
During the second set, the band put forward some of their later compositions from the 90’s/00’s such as Deep Blues, Tales of The Wise and Enigma. Each of these numbers showcases the guitar playing chops and harmonious partnership between both Powell and Abrahams. And with Enigma, there is a bit more of a contemporary sound, which is characterised by the use of a delay pedal.
Of course, Wishbone Ash and their ground-breaking technique went on to influence legendary acts such as Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy. Although Powell may be the only original member remaining, he commands a sensational guitar partnership along Mark Abrahams. This being Andy’s 9th guitar partner in their 50-year career.
However, it is a majestic rendition of Pilgrim that stands out in the second half of the show. With its twin part harmonies and psychedelic progressive rock groove, it certainly hits the spot.
The band closes out their second set with one final track from Pilgrimage by way of Jail Bait, which garners a duly deserved standing ovation from the Gateshead crowd. But they aren’t done quite yet. Of course, the night would not be complete without the timeless classic Blowin’ Free.
Powell jokes with the crowd that things are supposed to get easier the older you get, but with a new album and tour dates booked into 2021, Wishbone Ash is still going strong and showing no signs of slowing down.
Wishbone Ash will return to the Sage Gateshead on 26th January, 2021. Tickets are on sale now via www.sagegateshead.com.