STORY WRITTEN BY KEN KOLASINSKI
For 21st Century Media
Finding the right balance to acknowledge both the past and the present for any band with any sort of history can be a difficult thing.
When Wishbone Ash comes to the Sellersville Theater on Sept. 23, music fans will be treated to the proverbial “best of both worlds” from the influential English band. The night will feature a run through of the group’s legendary live album “Live Dates” as well as a number of tracks from their latest CD “Blue Horizon.”
While it might seem a daunting task to tackle a landmark live album on tour, the initial idea for the project seemed almost natural for Wishbone Ash founder and band leader Andy Powell.
“Actually it’s easy to play a live album live because it was a record, a recording of a moment in time that went down and became a live album,” said Powell, speaking on the phone before a show in Kansas.
“So essentially what we’re doing is playing the songs in sequence from the live album. But because it’s live we will also be injecting our own live versions of those songs. It’s not going to be a note-perfect recreation, it’s definitely something new.”
Released in 1973, the 12-track “Live Dates” captured the band at a series of shows earlier that same year. In preparation for the tour, Powell revisited what has become Wishbone Ash’s best-selling album to date and shared it with guitarist Muddy Manninen, bassist Bob Skeat and drummer Joe Crabtree, who round out the band’s line up.
“I did give it a listen a little bit, but not excessively,” he explained. “I had the guys in the band listen to the songs independently to work out the music but you’re not really listening in great detail to the routining of it all. We’re recreating the setlist from 1973 but making it something new.”
While playing an album in its entirety has become somewhat of an expected thing from fans for band’s with an extensive catalog, it doesn’t mean they’re free of some awkward or challenging moments. Even some of greatest albums of all-time had a song or two you’re surprised made the final cut or might not translate so well in today’s music world.
“There’s one song on the album called ‘Lady Whiskey,’ which is from the first Wishbone Ash record back in 1970 and that does sound very much of an era.,” said Powell. “But it still actually is fun to play on stage. It sounds like us almost leaving our teens, which for me it pretty much was when I wrote it at 19 or 20, and you got that kind of young punky energy.
“It know it sounds a little ridiculous for me now in my 60s so that feels kind of weird,” he said. “The guys in the band really love playing and it and I have to say, once we ratchet the energy level on it, it’s definitely fun. Although like I said, it really does sound very much of an era.
“On the other hand, some of the later songs like when we got into more stadium rock, like “Throw Down the Sword,” that song seems to have lasted the test of time. I feel like it could have almost been written now in a way.”
Revisiting the original “Live Dates” in preparation for the tour was also revealing for Powell as a guitar player.
“I had a lot of excess energy and I wasn’t too worried about bum notes in those days,” he said. “I think I’m a more conservative player now. At the same time, playing these songs does remind you of that energy you had.”
While “Live Dates” gives a great look at the band’s past the new material from “Blue Horizon” — out now on Solid Rockhouse Records and available on iTunes — shows Wishbone Ash as a band more than able to create a sound and dynamic that lives up to its history.
“We’re really pleased about the new album,” said Powell. “Some of those songs but up excellently against the more classic material. We weren’t going out to ape the past in any way, but there is just such a strong DNA in the band’s sound that it comes out in the newer songs we are writing.”
IF YOU GO
Wishbone Ash will be on stage at 8 p.m. on Sept. 23 at Sellersville Theater 1894, 24 West Temple Ave., Sellersville. For ticket information, call (215) 257-5808 or check www.st94.com.