By photojournalist Jefferey Moellering
Legendary Tampa Bay restaurant and live music venue Skipper’s Smokehouse recently played host to equally iconic British classic rockers Wishbone Ash. Local favorites The Lint Rollers put on a fine and lively set of beloved tunes, from greats such as the Beatles, Cream, the Doors, Deep Purple, Van Morrison, and more, which got the crowd revved and ready for the feature act. The music was interspersed with the Rollers brand of self-deprecating deadpan humor, reminding everyone not to take life too seriously, and remember to have a good time. The inclusion of a genuine Hammond B3 organ really brings an authentic sound to their songs, along with fine guitar playing and a steady rhythm section. Definitely an entertaining act to enjoy during an afternoon outdoors.
Headliner act Wishbone Ash hailing from England, enjoyed their greatest popularity during the early and mid 70s, but have played and toured relentlessly since their formation in 1969. They are famous for the dueling lead guitar sound, and cited as influential by many other famous bands employing a similar approach, like Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden, Dream Theatre and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Ash toured with Deep Purple in the 70s, with whom they share some stylistic similarities. Ash has always gotten positive critical reviews for their material, though they never quite achieved the level of success of other bands of the era. Their music is a unique blend of hard and progressive rock, folk and classical elements, vocal harmonies and intricate instrumental passages, and the songs hold up well in the test of time. Wishbone has maintained a steady and devoted following, who provide a loyal turnout to their consistent tour dates.
The Skipper’s show featured one set of their 1972 highly regarded “Argus” release, played in its entirety, with a short break, and a long second set which included a broad mix of songs from across their extensive catalog, which spans over 20 plus studio albums. The near 90 degree Florida heat in April did not deter the sizable and enthusiastic Sunday night crowd, who crowded near the stage to take in the dueling guitar licks.
Frontman and original remaining bandmember Andy Powell is both a fine vocalist and guitarist, featuring the famous Gibson Flying V. He exhibits great interplay with lead guitarist Mark Abrahams and is a very engaging and positive presence. Powell was very thankful for the support and took many opportunities between songs to dedicate them to various causes and life affirmations. Now at 72, he’s fit, going strong and shows no signs of stopping.
After two hours plus of music, Wishbone Ash brought out a special guest, Ms. Emma Kiara, a young lady who has already won an Emmy for melody writing for a New York TV news promotion piece in New York. Emma is now a vocal instructor at the Berretta Music Academy in Clearwater. Wishbone Ash finished a fun evening with a flourish of encore songs featuring Emma, who really added depth to their arrangements.
One notable distinction about Wishbone Ash is their uplifting demeanor; the bandmembers are genuinely happy and enjoying themselves, laughing and having fun. Metal bands are often known for their “doom and gloom”, but not these guys! Their spirit definitively infused the crowd and left everyone feeling optimistic about the state of the world. In this difficult time, hope has sometimes been hard to find, but the message of music shows that it truly can bring people together and offer a healing experience. This has undoubtedly fueled Wishbone Ash’s continued commitment to the cause and unites one generation to the next in passing the torch of inspiration.