Durham Blues Fest, Durham Univ Union, 23.6.12

Having bought the tickets some time ago, we were exceedingly underwhelmed to find out that Robin Trower had cried off on the 19th, due to his wife being ill. Very disappointing if I had specifically bought them to see Mr T. Of course, there is no chance of a refund because the promoter will claim the tickets were for ‘The Event’ (and not a specific act). So if you have bought tickets to see Bob Dylan at Hop Farm and he cries off, tough?  Always a dodgy concept, I reckon, and the least the organiser could have done would have been to give a free drink or two to the punters. I suspect there wasn’t a single ticket bought on the door. And the argument that everyone else is playing a longer set is a ridiculous  retort!  There would have been a riot at Leeds University in March 1971 if we’d have been told that Mssrs Jagger and co couldn’t turn up but the Groundhogs will be playing for twice as long!

So, we were a bit late in, and were greeted by the music of Henrik Freischlader and entourage. Pretty much standard slow bluesy stuff, definitely a bit soporific, so we went upstairs . (The bassist must have been the least-heavily employed person in the county). We got, I think, the Memphis Suns. Three-piece acoustic outfit (local), more country than blues but okay. Odd bum note but pleasant enough. Went back downstairs.

Connie Lush and Blues Shouter. Initial mic problems for Ms Lush, who proceeded to give us some original compositions which didn’t stray far from regular 12-bar stuff. She’s a regular at eg Butlins Rock n Blues, and is , for me, only an early opening act. Went back up to catch a bit of The Dukes (definitely not Steve Earle’s group), who gave us the likes of ‘Cocaine’ and ‘Sunshine of your Love’. Very much the sort of act you can find in any music pub anywhere.

By this time, one of our number had been desperately trying to avoid a one-way ticket to The Land of Nod, so we thought it a good idea to bale out and visit a few nearby boozers. To be honest, the fare thus far had been ok but nobody whom I would pay specifically to see.  Found a nearby pub, jukebox 5 for a bin lid. We put on ‘Kashmir’, ‘Freebird’ and other lengthy items which mysteriously cleared the bar.

Arrived back in upper room in time for Del Bromham. His group  Stray are now in their 6th decade of performing, and they (and he) always give a good show. He’s a good performer and our friends were well impressed with him. A mixture of Stray stuff from ‘Saturday Morning Pictures’ and ‘Mudanzaz’, plus some solo stuff and standards by Robert Johnson and Big Bill Broonzy. Small crowd didn’t detract from a good turn.  I make no apologies for giving Oli Brown a miss (apart from apologising for the fact that Her Ladyship thought it was going to be Olly Murs!!). Have seen Oli B at quite a few fests, and he plays that sort of twiddly funky blues that does nothing for me, so I don’t even know if he didn’t turn up either!

So, 9.30pm comes and time for Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash to give us an extended 90 min set. A sure-fire opening salvo of ‘The King Will Come’, Warrior’ and ‘Throw Down the Sword’ (all from Argus’) got the painfully-sparse crowd in good spirits. And the rest of the set featured more from that lp, plus ‘Lady Jay’, Phoenix’, ‘No Easy Road’ and two of my least-favourite numbers,’ The Pilgrim’ and ‘Sometime World’. (Toilet break). Rousing renditions of ‘Blowin’ Free’, ‘Jailbait’ and ‘Living Proof’ (my favourite from the Mk 2 line-up) . All in all, a really good closing performance.

The whole concept of ‘Wishbone Ash’ is, as fans will know, a major bone of contention between Andy Powell ( of ‘Wishbone Ash’) and Martin Turner (of ‘Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash’). Their co-existence is a huge irritation to Mr Powell, and sadly there are 2 totally conflicting versions of events that have brought about the situation. There are many fans who have stuck with the ever-changing line-up of Mr Powell’s group. They, and he, argue that AP has guided the group through thick and thin, and has come up with new material . MTWA basically play the 70s Wishbone Ash catalogue (with the odd foray into the 80s). Since MTWA started up (2006?), we have seen both versions quite a few times and we would actually rather see MTWA nowadays. In recent times, AP’s group have sadly demonstrated that they haven’t really produced a decent lp of original studio tracks since ‘Illuminations’. And on at least 2 occasions, they haven’t played ‘Blowin’ Free’!! (Leeds Irish Centre and York Fibbers). OK, so Mr P may be fed up of playing it every night, but remember, Mr P, that Her Ladyship and I only see you one night per annum. Rick Parfitt hates playing ‘Caroline’ and the late Mickey Jones of Man hated ‘Bananas’ but they did ’em! It may seem that I am being harsh where ‘Wishbone Ash’ (regular) are concerned and I am totally pro ‘Wishbone Ash’ (lite). In fact , the latter went through a period where the vocals were pretty dodgy, but I think MT has settled on their best line-up. (I can do without the guitar goofery though!)

Right, moaning over. On the bright side, 2 line-ups give us fans the chance to hear 2 nights of live Wishbone Ash songs!

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