Well this was a very special gig indeed; but I’ll start by explaining a little about the venue. The Village Blues Club used the Dagenham Roundhouse (in the suburbs just East of London, for those not too familiar with the area), as their venue between 1969 – 75. The list of major British and Irish bands that played there during this time is lengthy; and the status of the club and venue is legendary in SE England: Led Zep; Floyd; Purple; Gallagher; Queen; Genesis; Lizzy; Hawkwind; Heep; Stray; to name but a few, all played there. Unfortunately, due to complaints from residents about the noise (loud music; revving bikes; etc), the local council put a stop to the club in ’75. The Roundhouse is still a pub that holds occasional events; but nothing like the calibre of its legendary past. One of the regulars from those early days, was Ken Ansted; who, in 2008, started the Village Blues Club Nostalgia Group on Face Book. And one of the activities of the group is to hold a members only reunion (originally annually; now twice yearly – in May and September), at the old venue. Among the exalted list of great bands that trod the boards at the Roundhouse in its heyday, was of course, Wishbone Ash.
As you are probably aware, these days there are effectively two Wishbone Ashes – Martin Turner’s and Andy Powell’s. (See my Blog #5 for some info on the split). But for the 6th Reunion, MT had kindly agreed to play with his band. I said above that this was a very special gig – not just because these Village reunions apparently have all been very successful due to the exclusive and friendly nature of the Nostalgia Club – but it was significant in the history of MTWA too. This was because one of MT’s guitarists, Ray Hatfield, was to play his last gig with band after ten years of sterling service; and his recently announced replacement, Misha Nikolic, was due to make a brief debut too.
I arrived at the venue with my journalist son James by about 8 o’clock. There were several people I knew in the audience including the ubiquitous Dave and Brian from Touchline Live Music with their respective ladies; and the knowledgeable Darren Wisdom on the Merch stall. We had a brief chat with the guv’nor Ken Ansted; and with the soon to depart, Ray Hatfield; who is often to be found chatting with the punters before and after gigs. (See my Blog #51 for a review of Ray’s excellent album At The Drop Of A Hat).
The support act was another of the regulars from the old Village Blues Club days, Steve Kelly. He played a solo acoustic set beginning with Led Zep’s ‘Immigrant Song’; followed by Quo’s ‘In My Chair’. The next song was dedicated to the locals whose complaints led to the closure of the club back in ’75 – the Small Faces’ ‘Lazy Sunday’. ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to get on with me neighbours!’ he aptly sang; and ‘Here we all are sitting in the Roundhouse!’ He also covered ‘It was A Very Good Year’ famously sung by Sinatra. He did some of his own songs too: ‘Butter No Parsnips’; Suburban Villa’; ‘Hash’ (an instrumental which he renamed in honour of the nights special guest ‘Wishbone Hash!’; ‘You Can Never Shine’ (dedicated to Kevin Ayers; ‘Phoenix’ and ‘Sights And Sounds’. A good little set.
Just before 9PM, MTWA emerged from the Green Room and stepped on stage to great applause. Their excellent set list was pretty much that which they played when I saw them six weeks before at The Beaverwood Club. (See my review Blog #44). Suffice to say, that if anything, their performance was even better! Maybe it was the friendly and cosy ambience of this great little venue; or maybe it was the tangible realisation that these four would not play regularly together again. But whatever the reason, all four of these fine musicians (Martin; Ray; Danny Willson; and Tim Brown) gave a superb performance – maybe the best I’ve seen them play.
And I think the rest of the audience probably would have agreed with me. The place was rockin’ – packed and sweaty! The fans consisted of people of all ages, but mostly middle-aged rockers – like myself! As I looked around, I saw a Johnny Winter look-alike; several blokes who resembled Jesus; and bizarrely, a dead-spit of Andy Powell! All were digging the MTWA vibe! The limited tickets had sold out some while before the gig, so everyone there was up for it. And we weren’t disappointed.
As usual, it was a two-part set, plus encore. They played three songs from their forthcoming album Written In The Stars; five from the classic Argus album – including an astoundingly good rendition of ‘Sometime World’; and many of the other old WA live favourites. But the encore was especially good – and significant. Starting with ‘The King Will Come’ (which had everyone singing along); the lads then played ‘Doctor’ (from Wishbone Four, 1973). It was to be Ray’s last number for MTWA; and Martin thanked him for the ten years he had put in. Ray has been very popular with the fans, and left the stage to rousing, well deserved applause. Finally, the new boy Misha was called on stage to do the final number, ‘Jailbait’; borrowing Ray’s guitar. He was warmly welcomed by all; and we’ll be eagerly seeing how he contributes to the band – its a tough act to follow though!
Good luck to Ray as he embarks on new projects – including a third album soon, I hope. Good luck to Misha as he joins one of the best live bands in Britain. A big round of applause for Ken Ansted and his crew for all their hard work in getting this fantastic gig off the ground. And finally, a big thank you to the charming ladies behind the bar who all worked tirelessly, providing beer with a lovely smile! PTMQ
Here is a link to the Wikipedia entry on the Dagenham Roundhouse…. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dagenham_Roundhouse
Here is a link to the Official MTWA website… http://www.martinturnermusic.com/