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Croydon concert review - Sounds, October 1976 by Barbara Charone

Wishbone Come Of Age

 

“I saw a band today that will give you guys a scare,” someone told Andy Powell in the dressing room after a triumphant concert at Croydon’s Fairfield Halls.  Powell’s ebullient grin quickly turned into a dour frown.  “On TV this afternoon was this incredible band called The Shadows.”  Everyone laughed.

 

Sunday afternoon Cliff Richard and his Shadows sidestepped through some early sixties choreography and simple ethnic licks.  Sunday night Wishbone Ash flaunted their newly acquired onstage professionalism, carrying themselves with the confidence and air of a bigtime rock 'n’ roll band.  Laurie Wisefield has now gelled into the Wishbone scheme of things both musically and visually.

 

Despite the sterile atmosphere that plagues the Fairfield Hall, Wishbone Ash managed to eventually transform the stiff venue into a sweaty rock n’roll club.  The enthusiastic supporters finally triumphed over the ultra-heavy security, running down the front on the encores ‘Bad Weather Blues’ and ‘Jailbait’ with uncontrollable energy and adrenalin.  By the end of the evening, everyone in the boxes and balconies were standing in unified euphoria.  The King had come indeed.

 

There is nothing depressing about this Wishbone Ash tour.  Place the emphasis on the new please more than the England for Wishbone Ash really are a new band.  There is no gloomy air of nostalgia.  The audience didn’t come simply for a stroll down memory lane.  Many of the capacity crowd hadn’t even seen the band before.  The transition is finally complete.

 

No longer the subtle, melodic band they once were, Wishbone Ash have lost that sweet edge replacing it with a ballsy rock n’ roll foundation that is strong enough to bowl you over.

 

That’s why something like ‘Time Was’ doesn’t work nearly as well as revitalised versions of ‘Blowin’ Free’ or ‘King Will Come’.  Lacking that gentler cutting edge, ‘Time Was’ years to break out of it’s subtler confines.

 

The nicest surprise is that the best material is the new material, pointing towards a very healthy Wishbone future.  They blast off with ‘Runaway’, more aggressive than the record as Andy Powell dances and sways while tossing off clean licks.  From the new album, ‘Lorelei’ and ‘Mother Of Pearl’ sound even harder.  When Powell, Upton and Turner come together as one giant rhythm machine, Wisefield lays down spellbinding guitar solos.

 

The set really takes off with ‘Outward Bound’, which deservedly earns a huge ovation.  Even the security men down front applaud.  From here on the show gains momentum, running like a well-olied engine about to open the throttle for that final finish.  ‘It Started in Heaven’ got the place jumpin’ while ‘Blowin’ Free’ did the trick.

 

By the encores the entire crowd was on its feet, hands placed highly overhead clapping to the authentic rock n’ roll blasting out of the speakers.