Live | Wishbone Ash – Muziekgieterij – Maastricht [NL]

12 December 2023

With 1969 as year of birth Wishbone Ash can definitely be categorized as a hard rock fossil, whether the band is happy with that classification or not. Having said so, it is all about how to deal with that ‘age’ and in that respect it must be said that this highly influential UK twin guitar pioneer has succeeded in maintaining a bonafide status in recent decades. 


It all becomes evident during tonight’s performance in the charming city of Maastricht. With Andy Powell as sole survivor of the band’s original line-up the current formation serves the Wishbone Ash legacy full justice. With the 73-year-old founder/guitarist/singer at the helm the band sets for a flawless performance. The small room of the Muziekgieterij is nicely filled with some three hundred men and a few dozen women which is a respectable turn-up on a Tuesday winter evening like this. 

At age 54 I belong to the younger section of tonight’s audience which indicates that the majority of tonight’s enthusiasts has aged alongside the band. But despite the increased age there is no room for sluggishness tonight, neither from the band nor the audience. The band’s rich history is celebrated in a passionate way, on stage as well as frontstage. Wishbone Ash is still an active touring band and freshly back from a tour in the United States, the four piece demonstrates to be a well-oiled machine. Naturally, Powell is at the forefront of the battle leading his troops but the musical support demonstrates a high degree of routine and craftsmanship. 


The additional vocals of veteran bassist Bob Skeat provide beautiful harmonies making his input rather decisive for the overall sound. It cannot be denied that Powell’s lead vocals have lost some of its’ glance making Skeat function somewhat as a fixer. Musically Wishbone Ass is still rock solid though. Contrary to previous 2023 shows it is not the highly regarded 1973 ‘Argus’ record that is performed in its entirety, but instead a more or less complete performance of the ‘Live Dates’ record from that same year comes our way. Given the fact that ‘Live Dates’ contains four fan favorites from ‘Argus’ there is no reason for disappointment. 

After the playful instrumental ,,Real Guitars Have Wings’’ has opened the set, the popular `Argus’ cuts ,,The King Will Come’’, ,,Warrior’’ and ,,Throw Down The Sword’’ are played in succession, in a smooth and relaxed way and to great acclaim. The fourth ‘Argus’ piece ,,Blowing Free’’ will follow later in the set. The remaining material of ‘Live Dates’ also withstood the test of time very well. In celebration of its’ fiftieth anniversary the live album was completely re-recorded earlier this year by the current line up so the material has sunk in well. Whether it’s the swift ,,Rock N Roll Widow’’, the melancholic ,,Ballad Of The Beacon’’ or the playfully reworked Jimmy Reed cover ,,Baby What You Want Me To Do’’, it is all performed spotless. 


It is admirable that a veteran band and Powell in particular still manages to remain so genuine and committed after all these years. The narrative announcement of ,,Rock N Roll Widow’’ for example; Powell must have told the anecdote that inspired the song on hundreds of occasion but he still manages to deliver it as if where the first time. Details like this indicate that the end of Wishbone Ash does not seem to be in sight yet. Powell will keep going as long as his health allows him and Wishbone Ash in such glorious shape deserves nothing but our blessing. 

Powell’s interaction with guitar counterpart Mark Abrahams is finger-licking good since every note is spot-on and the live sound nears perfection. The frivolously interwoven guitar parts, which have been the band’s unique selling point from day one, come to life splendidly. It does not look like this is the last time that we can enjoy adventurous songs like ,,Pilgrim’’ and ,,Phoenix’’. The latter comes in a nearly twenty-minute-long mammoth version and serves as an epic set closer. 


With a little over an hour and a half on the clock the band returns to the stage once to finish off with ,,We Stand As One’’, a cut from the 2020 studio release ‘Coat Of Arms’. The usual set closer ,,Living Proof’’ remains untouched as Powell’s somewhat sore throat prevents performance of this fan favorite tonight. But nobody takes offence. Wishbone Ash has lost very little of its’ class over the years. The band whose influential guitar interaction was a mayor influence to bands like Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden continues to shine.

Photos by Martien Koolen



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