This was a band I was really looking forward to seeing live, I had managed to miss seeing them on several occasions over the years but this time I got lucky. Wishbone Ash was originally formed in 1969, are renowned for their twin guitar sound and their massive influence on bands like Iron Maiden. The current incarnation revolves around founding member Andy Powell.
Gebr. Nobel in Leiden is a pretty new venue, designed for the maximum convenience of the public making it a very pleasant, if a tad sterile, place to go for a concert.
The band was playing the big hall and that filled up early and nicely in anticipation of the start of the concert. There’s a lot of levels in the hall itself allowing a great view for everyone yet also allowing for a sense of intimacy. There was no supporting band so Wishbone Ash entered the stage promptly half an hour after doors open.
They opened the show with a song from 2007 and one from 2014, showcasing the strength of the newer tunes in front of a receptive audience. After this warm-up Andy quipped that they only recently found out the European shows were billed as Argus shows, so they had to quickly re-master the songs. With a beaming smile he led the band into Time Was, and the start of the Argus portion of the show.
Playing Argus in front of an audience like this must feel like a warm bath for the band, the songs are strong and loved and have a lot of room for individual expression. The pleasure in playing the songs did visibly shine from Andy and certainly bass player Bob Skeat as well. The crowd was an fascinating mix of people being lively in dancing and singing along and some that were just motionlessly staring, enraptured by the tunes pouring into the room.
Sometime World has this start of wistfulness rolling into up-tempo frenzy that works very well live, and it was played flawlessly. The King Will Come has always been one of my favourites and the power of the songs was conveyed very well here. I must say at this point that the acoustics of Gebr. Nobel are really impressive, no matter where you are the sound is excellent, but especially at the front where the sound can be lacking, and people be at the mercy of the band’s monitors, the sound was still very layered and clear.
Warrior was introduced with ‘we have been playing this song for 46 years now’ which solicited a wry smile from Andy and cheers from the crowd. I have always felt ambivalent to this song, felt I should have liked it more than I did, and seeing it live for the first time made it click in a way that the recorded versions (even of live shows) did not, and I got a new appreciation for that song.
Throw Down the Sword is not as large a rock classic as it should be, for me it’s near to the perfect classic rock song and having the boys play it with passion was a treat.
Having finished the Argus album the band wasted no time going to much more contemporary themes, linking Heavy Weather to the changing climate and its gruesome effects. With a quick dip into the original Live Dates’ bluesy Baby What Do You want Me To Do it was back to 2014’s Way Down South, still showcasing that trademark double guitar sound that defines the band.
Soulful 80’s song Open Road was the final song of the regular set. The band came back after a 2-minute break to “play just one more song folks, we’re old” as Andy put it.
Crowd favourite early 70’s track Jailbait was the encore, finishing the show as it started, hard rocking and full of energy.
The band proved very accessible after the show as well, spending ample time mingling with the public in a very relaxed way. This is truly a band that can serve as an example to many in their work ethic, musical ability and respect for their public. A great show from a legendary band.
The King Will Come (youtube audience recording)
Leaf and Stream
Throw Down the Sword
Baby What You Want Me To Do
Way Down South