One weekend in 1971 John, my older brother, came home from college and threw a record album jacket in front of me. It was the eponymous debut release from a band that was unknown to me – Wishbone Ash. He said “You’re gonna love this!” He was right. After one listen I copied it to cassette and put it on heavy rotation in my car. What struck me were the twin lead guitars in harmony and the jazz influences, but still very much a rock band. Through numerous personnel changes and experimentations in their sound, Wishbone Ash has been one of my all time favorites.
This show at the Variety was billed as Live Dates Live, performing their epic double LP from 1973 in its entirety. They did, along with other selections before and after the 11-song homage starting with The King Will Come through Phoenix. Their performance of Phoenix was jaw-dropping unbelievable and much better than the version on the LP. Only those in attendance could relate – those few in attendance. Embarrassingly the crowd was small for this quality show. I felt bad for the band, but no matter. This show in Atlanta was the last stop on their North American Tour which started in Vancouver. Knowing that this was the last night and they were tired as they looked out at empty seats, Wishbone Ash could have phoned it in. Hell no! They put on a fine show as if they were performing at a packed Royal Albert Hall.
The original Wishbone Ash line up included Andy Powell and Ted Turner on guitar. They were the darlings of every guitar magazine and were compared to Beck and Page (I wouldn’t – apples and oranges). Both Powell and Turner were in many top ten lists. The only original member touring now is Andy Powell but Andy is Wishbone Ash. Muddy Manninen is the other guitarist and is a fantastic musician in his own right, especially on slide guitar.
Andy, bearing a strong resemblance to Walter White sans pork pie hat, has not lost any vocal range and can deliver blistering solos from his flying V. There were two sets, dividing the tunes from Live Dates into each set. One of the encore songs was Persephone from 1974’s There’s The Rub, which has been one of their most popular songs in concert. At this show Persephone was especially haunting and was one of the highlights of the evening.
There was no opening act this night at the Variety – just Andy and the Gang. The sparse crowd dispersed onto Euclid Avenue knowing they had witnessed one of the guitar greats still at the top of his game. My friend Ed has seen Wishbone Ash once more than me and told me they keep getting better each time. I believe him.
Until the next concert, it’s time for my boot heels to be wanderin’.