Concert Review by Joe Milliken: Wishbone Ash Live At The Bull Run
SHIRLEY, MASSACHUSETTS – Wishbone Ash was one of those classic rock bands that I had always heard about, yet other than their seminal album from the 70s, Argus, had always seemed to elude my full attention. Well, it’s a good thing that “dueling-guitar” bands that followed, such as Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden, did not make the same mistake that I did!
Review and photos by Joe Milliken
At the height of their popularity, albums such as Wishbone Ash (1970), Pilgrimage (1971), the aforementioned Argus (1972), Wishbone Four (1973), There’s the Rub (1974), and New England (1976), solidified the band as one of the most powerful live bands of the decade, as Powell and original guitarist, Ted Turner, developed a reputation as one of the top guitar duos in rock, influencing such guitarists as Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris and Thin Lizzy’s Gary Moore and Eric Bell.
A couple years ago, this music journalist had the unique opportunity to interview original member, Andy Powell, and my curiosity grew more, prompting me to obtain and review their 2017 boxed set, titled Vintage Years, and also enjoy some cool YouTube video clips of the band.
Then, finally, I recently had the opportunity to see Wishbone Ash perform live at one of my favorite venues, the Bull Run Restaurant, and although I was now equipped with a much better understanding of the band after the Powell interview, and boxed set and video exposure, I admittedly still wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
Well, I can honestly report now that I was not just pleasantly surprised, but completely knocked-out by the fiery, duel-guitar-power of Mr. Powell and young(er) gun Mark Abrahams, along with the punchy, in-the-pocket rhythm section of veteran bassist, Bob Skeat, and jazzy-versatile drummer Joe Crabtree. They played all their fan favorites; from “Prelude,” “King Will Come” and “Warrior,” to “Jailbait,” “Phoenix” and the encore-anthem “Blowin’ Free.”
The band was tight and smoldering from start to finish, combining those twin-guitar leads of both Powell and Abrahams, as the duo took turns creating edgy-but-melodic leads and soaring melodies to produce the sonic attack Wishbone Ash has always been known for by their loyal fans, many of which were in the house and loudly expressing their approval. Never stepping on each others’ toes, the guitarists traded off leads and riffs with ease and confidence, sculpting a wall of sound that left the attentive audience often times mesmerized, with mouths agape. What’s more, Powell’s unusually cool vocal style had a James Dewar (of Robin Trower fame) raspy-feel that was often quite bluesy, adding a unique contrast to the otherwise progressively powerful song structures.
If you are a fan of the classic 70s guitar-rock sound, do yourself a favor and don’t make the same mistake this reviewer made for years, and check out this band. Start with their legendary Argus album and outstanding boxed set, watch some YouTube footage and go from there… you may find yourself searching out Wishbone Ash’s website and concert schedule in hopes of seeing a show listing near you I’m sure glad I (finally) did!