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Hammersmith concert review - NME, October 1976 by Tony Stewart

Victory Shine

 

Welcome home concerts are invariably occasions of extreme delight, mutually enjoyed by band and audience alike, and within the precincts of the hall it’s unlikely that anything short of the stage collapsing will destroy an evening of total satisfaction.

 

So, as Wishbone Ash open their second “by popular demand” performance at the Hammersmith Odeon on Saturday they don’t have the task of establishing a rapport with the capacity house.  Already their followers have created an atmosphere of anticipatory zeal and they are willing to applaud the simple event of Wishbone playing once again in Britain.  It is, of course, a situation in which the band can usually excel.

Occasionally things do go decidedly amiss.  Earlier this year, for instance, the Average White Band returned to Britain and played an artistically disastrous set.  But they did the unforgivable: sat back in their chairs and expected to be hoisted aloft and carried triumphant through the hall by the audience alone.


Wishbone’s approach is significantly different.  This is a band intent on living up to the expectations of their followers and as soon as they begin their act you can feel the frantic, determined energy they exude. And their axiom seems to be: two years absence makes the heart grow fonder, but it also makes the music better.

 

Perhaps, though, they’re trying just a little too hard to be impressive and overkilling the twin guitars of the band by pushing Andy Powell and Laurie Wisefield so far up in the mix that they not only drown out bassist Martin Turner’s vocals but are quite deafening.  And Wisefield (who replaced Ted Turner a couple of years back) projects himself as a parody of the vicious HM axe man, which for a five foot nothing guy looks pretty ludicrous. 

 

But these, however, are problems which affect the band early in their set and which, by the time they reach their third number, ‘Warrior’, have been overcome.  Although the focus remains firmly on Powell and Wisefield’s virtuosity, the former’s slightly more restrained approach on his instrument influences the latter to cool the histrionics. 

 

Musically there hasn’t been great change within the band.  Drummer Steve Upton and Turner lay down fairly ordinary rhythms in a very workmanlike manner, and the twin guitars contribute a complexity of figures and sequences.  Only on ‘Lorelei’ from their latest album New England do they introduce an R&B influence – probably the result of living in the States.

 

It’s still a set, culled from their old and new catalogues, which is played well and counterpointed by effective stage lighting and back projections.

 

Definitely a strong return to Britain.