Dirty Dog Discs 2018
Still, searching for an answer, classic rock veteran strikes a balance between his past and present – and leaves the glory.
That was “ambitious and asking a lot of the audience,” says Martin Turner on a DVD part of this 3-disc combo, documenting his band’s 2016 concert, and indeed, to play their recently released album in its entirety to people eager to hear WISHBONE ASH classics could be a daunting task. Thankfully, "Written In The Stars" came close to the bassist’s gems of yore, and the record’s live reading doesn’t feel labored – there’s a lot to enjoy in the songs’ transition to the stage, even though they had hardly been devised with concert delivery in mind and sometimes new music wouldn’t lend itself to an in-the-moment approach so easily. As a result, the likes of “Interstellar Rockstar” seem rather thin, despite a nice mix of acoustic lace and slider roll, while time-tested pieces such as “Lady Jay” appear in front of the public robust and ready to rock.
Small square stage of “The Citadel” may create an atomic experience, embodying the album’s very spirit, but the intro’s mighty twang, given Martin’s booming bass and meandering dance – the gist of “The Big Bang” – makes the tittle track an immaculate opener whose shimmer would be echoed further down the line in “The Pilgrim” which, unfortunately, doesn’t get much of a poise from a shredding passage yet, with tightly clustered artists, displays more of a united front from musicians who initially look immersed in their own, not collective, world. Smiles don’t light up until the graceful “Mystify Me” is unfurled, and it would take a timewarp to reach “Doctor” where Misha Nikolic and Danny Wilson’s axes get engaged in a hilarious stand-off and to arrive at the pantomime of “Jailbait” where Turner truly shines. His voice will show wear ‘n’ tear on “Blind Eye” but his instrumental solo will invigoratingly dissolve the twin-guitar weave in “Written In The Stars” and provide support to vocal harmonies that mirror the panorama of old numbers.
If, live, “Lovers” turns into a loose slab of pub-rock, and “Vapour Trail” is rendered too sparse, which should only stress its fragility, a funereal frill of “Throw Down The Sword” has the fullest sound of all the performances on offer. And if nostalgic edge to the waltz that is “The Lonely Star” perfectly defines the difference between the six-stringers’ styles – Wilson’s bluesy wail and Nikolic’s harmony spectrum, “Warrior” lands on a nicely chiseled a cappella snippet, and “The King Will Come” rides a righteous panache. This is why, although punters entering and leaving the room during the concert disrupt its magic, the fractured brilliance of “F.U.B.B.” and the finely textured funk of “You See Red” save the day.
It’s as chaotic as Martin Turner must require yet the veteran has finally discovered a vantage point to observe the order of his creative drift and a place to find peace of mind in.