The Beauty of Chaos Tour.
This is the tour in which Martin Turner and his cohorts play Argus in its entirety, something I’ve been looking forward to since the tour was announced. Before we get to hear this though the Bilston audience were entertained by John Fairhurst pulling a solo spot of country-fused blues with a hint of shanty. A new father, John wasn’t slow to acknowledge that tiredness might be a factor but he barely let that show. As a Fairhurst novice I was impressed by his dexterity on the guitar and when combined with a gritty, almost country bumpkin style, voice it was very entertaining. He has gathered a series of plaudits this year for his appearances as both solo artist and band member, his playing combines blues, rock, slide and flamenco so there is no chance of it becoming stale or boring. What he does need is a guitar tech following a bit of a disaster with tuning, mind you, if that had been me I’d have needed to go and look for a new guitar having smashed that one to pieces in frustration. A decent audience turned out for him perhaps confirming that he might be a name to look out for in the future. His latest album, Saltwater, was released in November 2016, check it out.
It was time for Martin Turner, founding member of the iconic Wishbone Ash, and his team-mates, Danny Willson, Misha Nikolic and Tim Brown, to take to the stage. With the promise of playing the 45 year old Argus in its entirety a very vocal audience needed no encouragement to welcome the band back to Bilston. This was a show of two very distinct halves, the first half being a trip down memory lane with songs coming from the self-named first album by Wishbone Ash through to the last album penned and played by Martin Turner, Just Testing, released in 1980. In amongst these early songs was a sprinkling of newer material from Written in the Stars, released in 2015. As ever Martin Turner is never short of a few words between songs just as Danny Willson is never short of a few funny faces. With songs taken from Wishbone Ash (1970), There’s the Rub (1974), New England (1976), Front Page News (1977) and Just Testing (1980) plus a handful of songs from Written in the Stars (2015) the first half was full of memories, old and new.
The second half was what everybody was waiting for, Argus played in its entirety. The variation being that the song order was that of the 2008 release, Argus Through the Looking Glass, rather than that of the original 1972 album. The only difference between the two albums was that the final song of tonight’s main set came much earlier on the original album. So, Argus Through the Looking Glass got under way with ‘Time Was’ and as the songs progressed Martin Turner gave a brief bio of how each song came about. ‘Sometime World’, ‘The King Will Come’, ‘Leaf and Stream’, ‘Warrior’, ‘Throw Down the Sword’ and finally ‘Blowin Free’ took up the entire second set. The twin guitars for which Wishbone Ash became famous were delivered incredibly well by Danny Willson and Misha Nikolic. One other, minor, variation was that I don’t remember a sampling of Monty Python’s ‘I’m a Lumberjack’ appearing anywhere on the original Argus either, but it manage to work its way into ‘Warrior’! As well as the song bio’s Martin told a few jokes, on the basis of these my advice would be ‘don’t give up the day job’ just yet!
The entertainment didn’t end with Argus, the encore consisted of a couple more early songs, Doctor, taken from Wishbone 4, released in 1973, and Jailbait from Pilgrimage (1971).
A super night listening to songs taken from one of my all time favourite albums played by Martin Turner in his pyjamas and Danny Willson wearing a shirt made from someone’s curtains – brilliant! The next tour promises to be the re-telling of another iconic Wishbone Ash album, I can’t wait.
Words and pictures by Reg Richardson