UK Tour Wrap-Up
Our UK tour started in the beautiful, state-of-the-art theatre called The Stables located in Wavenden, Bedfordshire and owned by British jazz icon Ms. Cleo Laine. It finished in the unlikely little Lancashire town of Clitheroe, located in the beautiful Ribble Valley, where we held--or more specifically, the fans held--the 2017 annual AshCon or Wishbone Ash fan convention, at an equally beautiful venue called The Grand. In between these two great shows we played London, several interesting places in the West Country, Wales and Scotland. Sadly no Ireland this time round, but that will be put to right in June when we play the Ballyshannon Festival. This event is dedicated, as always, to the memory of a great Irish guitar-player, Mr. Rory Gallagher, who I personally had the good fortune to play on several bills with over the years.
In looking back at the month, there were lots of great memories created and many standout shows. Perhaps just nudging into the lead, for us, would be Holmfirth, Picturedrome, itself nestled in the picturesque Yorkshire town that has now become a bona fide rock ’n' roll pilgrimage for many. We gave probably our best performance that night, though the fan convention itself proved to be full of last-minute surprises with the Pat MacManus Band and Canadian rocker Steve Hill joining us for some impromptu songs like “Errors of My Way” and Lowell George’s “Willin.'”
In London, the entire audience sang along to several of our songs, which was truly rousing and quite humbling at the same time. I must thank Steve Hill for the excellent way he opened our show each night throughout Britain. For any of you who missed him, check out his song “Dangerous” on YouTube. It’s had over one million views. Steve performs as a kind of one man band - it’s incredible to watch and he is a fearsomely great guitar player, singer and songwriter into the bargain. His French Canadian crew, Marc and Carl, were especially pro and very nice guys, and we had some good laughs and conversations along the way.
When Pauline and I visit the country of our birth, we always have the added bonus of reconnecting with distant family members and, in one case in Plymouth, an old school friend we hadn’t seen for many years. The three of us were at Apsley Grammar School together in Hertfordshire, back in the day. I also met up with another friend from my teenage years, Terry Finn, who used to drum in a band I played in before Wishbone Ash, and he reminded me of how he had met me at the station on the evening after that first audition for what later became Wishbone Ash. Terry went on to crew for us as we played some of those first shows as a band, and he filled in some important gaps in my memory. Great seeing him and his wife Rose.
Through Ancestry.com I also managed to meet two long-lost (to me) distant cousins, Matt and Robert. They drove to Swindon especially for our show, from Wales and Aylesbury respectively. We had a great evening connecting even more dots and sharing photos. Family members also came to shows in London, Newmarket, Hunstanton, Aberdeen,Swindon and Milton Keynes. We are everywhere!!!
It’s interesting how Wishbone Ash has built up this tradition of touring in different countries during specific, dedicated months. Folks actually know that during a certain month in the year, their own country will be graced with a tour. If it’s November, it’s the U.K. and in January / February it’s Europe and so on. Of course it’s quite grueling for the musicians and crews, but I personally wouldn’t have it any other way. Being a weekend warrior is simply not really being a band, in my opinion, but there again, I’m old school. The touring thing means that we get musically tight and more than a few band members like myself really like the ‘comfortably numb’ feeling of just having the show to think about each day while leaving the day to day, life concerns of home, somewhat on the back burner.
A big shout-out to several hardcore fans who must also enjoy this, because we saw them on so many shows: Ian and Doreen Barton, Mike and Sue Day, Keith Fox, Colin Hargrave, Ben Reinhardt, Derek Thompson, and Chris and Carolyn Wright; and then we have our dedicated crew to thank, John Galliard on guitars and backline and Richard Buckland on sound. A special shout-out to my nearest and dearest, Pauline, who actually worked tirelessly through the summer booking all our complicated travel and hotel needs, together with merchandise and a myriad of other things that go into keeping a touring band functioning on the road. She then got to fulfill the actual tour dates themselves with me. Amazingly tough lady!
Another tough lady, who has also been working tirelessly behind the scenes on this tour covering all the U.K. PR and social media posts, is Kate Goldsmith. (The band you see on stage is just a part of the team that makes all these tours possible). Oh, and did I mention that she, like our other USA PR person, Billy James at Glass Onyon PR, is one hell of a drummer.
Guy Roberts, ably assisted by Sue, worked his usual magic for AshCon, and Pauline and Guy Holt along with Daniel Moore and several other folks crewed for us there. Big thanks to you all! Special mention to Ian Crockett from Snapper Music who gave a very informative and in-depth talk to the fans about the upcoming “Vintage Years” box set release slated for April on that label. It’s been 4 years in the making and will prove to be an amazing testament to one of the most iconic British bands to have graced the live stages and recording studios of the world. I’m very proud to have been associated with the preparation of this 30-CD record of the first 20 years of Wishbone Ash. I believe advanced orders were even being taken at AshCon. At £250 per box, there will only be 2,500 made and that's it for all time. Billy James will handle PR for Snapper on this release. I believe it will garner a lot of reviews.
Lastly, the boys in the band just excelled. Joe Crabtree kept us all anchored to the beat while remaining upbeat throughout, and new man Mark Abrahams simply supplied the ‘wow factor’ having settled in like the pro he is, during the USA tour, which directly preceded this one. 50-plus dates on the two tours has really brought this new band configuration right up to speed. The guitar section is now so tight, people are commenting on that as well as the authentic tonal palette, and of course, the renewed energy in the whole band. Bob Skeat has switched over to using a Rickenbacker bass along with a powerful Ashdown bass rig, giving the low end of the band more oomph and growl. Bob, as always, the consummate player.
So now, we have the European continent in our sights and start there on January 10th in Verviers, Belgium, to be precise. This tour promises to be even more of a traveling extravaganza, with the Doris Brendel Band opening each show. She and her guitarist, Lee, will also join us on stage for some vocalizing. I’m sure it’ll also be a party each and every night with so many different characters backstage. I love that.
Many of you have asked after our old friend and sound man par excellence, Daniel Vetter. I’m happy to announce that he will once again rejoin us on this tour, as will Sean Dalton, he of the copious facial hair and special backline abilities. Once again it’ll be a multi-cultural affair.
See you somewhere out there, and if you can’t make a show, I’m sure YouTube will give you something of the experience. Oh, and by the way, someone commented on how amazing it is that I remember so many names and faces whilst on tour. Faces I’m good at but names I sometimes forget; and if I DID draw a blank on you while working the rooms each night, please forgive me.
Best Wishes and Best Bones ~ A.P.
Photos taken at Memorial Hall, Newmarket, by Trevor Cotterell – Concert Photography Plus, www.tcpp.uk