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New York Academy concert review - Sounds, 1 December 1973 by Jerry Gilbert

It’s heartening to report that on a single night at New York’s Academy of Music, four British bands coming together for two separate shows, sold out the place and provided a spectacle that just wouldn’t be seen in Britain.

 

It’s also good to report that the band who would have been considered the underdogs in Britain – Climax Blues Band – headed the late show and their soaring reputation went another step higher as the Academy rocked into the early hours of the morning. Their hero was the diminutive Pete Haycock, sporting a new aluminium guitar from which he coaxed plenty of fire during the kind of display that, thankfully, still shakes American asses.

 

The fact that three days later Climax found themselves locked in a Mexican jail is a different story as is the scene which I said could never have happened in Britain. Of the former I know very little other than that their experience was of the kind that you read about in Jack London books and fortunately they were forced to bear it for only one night as thieves and scavengers attempted to strip them of their belongings. A severe reprisal indeed.

 

The latter event, however, concerned a jam session that concluded Climax’s show somewhere around 4pm. Now there are jams and jams, and no-one could have blamed Wishbone Ash’s Ted Turner and Andy Powell for simply wanting to get their rocks off when they went on to join Haycock and Co at the end, but instead we heared Turner playing in a conjunctive capacity, always attempting to build and add an extra layer rather than pinch the limelight; Powell, who looked to have recently fallen fould of some demonic barber, ripped off some devilish solos from the back while Pete Haycock, the boss for sure on this occasion, let fly some lovely cascades during a final flourish of ‘Going To New York’ and ‘Stormy Monday’ that made the gig even more momentous than Climax’s last visit to the Academy which has been preserved in the form of a new live album.

 

Earlier on, we had arrived at Kennedy Airport and driven straight to the Manhattan gig where Argent, opening act to Wishbone, were given a strangely subdued reception by the audience which was a travesty since they hit some amazing highs, notably during ‘The Fakir’. Even the overtures of ‘She’s Not There’ failed to rouse the crowd to any great extend although a last burst by Rob Henrit finally won over the audience and Henrit walked off looking like he’d just run all the way to the gig with his kit strapped on his back.

Irrespective of the audience it looked as though Wishbone would have a tough time topping Argent as Ted and Andy unwound the familiar intro to ‘The King Will Come’.

 

Confident start, good reaction, and as the band followed the long mazy path into ‘Warrior’ it looked as though they would be running the new Live Dates album sequence track by track. Already the pattern of the guitars was established, Andy’s axe low swung, ripping off tremendous melodic solos which seemed to soar upwards and cascade like a fireworks display, Ted weighing anchor, feeling out every riff with an altogether tougher tenor to his instrument.

 

Then Andy and Martin Turner were upfront wailing out vocals to ‘Throw Down the Sword’, which is the written proof of Wishbone’s harmonic power, the point at which comparisons between the two guitarists become thoroughly irrational.

 

Steve Upton, meanwhile, as though attempting to upstage Rob Henrit, was sweating buckets onto his own kit, expending more physical energy than the rest of the band put together. But he took a breather to announce his own ‘Rock and Roll Widow’ from Wishbone Four, an album which met with a lot more approval on this side of the Atlantic than it did in England. Andy took it away and then it was Ted’s turn to shine, playing some beautiful electric slide knife-style on a horizontal plane.

 

And so the greatest hits of Wishbone unfolded, Steve finding a perfect platform to go into his water spitting act as the prelim to ‘Pilgrim’ with its long and winding intro and some more great twin lead work from the guitarists.

 

‘Blowin’ Free’ and then ‘Jailbait’ followed with Ted and Andy finally picking in unison as though at last finding a reconciliation point. They followed this blast with another – ‘Baby What You Want Me To Do’ and as the ‘Phoenix’ took shape the audience became aware that the concert was nearing its end.

 

The front projection sent light meteors hurtling round the auditorium as Wishbone reached a climatic end. ‘Doctor’ made a good encore and maybe if they’d acknowledge the tremendous acclaim they might do ‘Ballad of the Beacon’ as a closer, but instead they drilled out ‘Where Were You Tomorrow’ in a final unmistakable flourish with a formula that looked so simple that one was forced to ask why so few bands adopt this double guitar front line.