May 1, 2011

Concert Review: Wishbone Ash At The Van Dyck In Schenectady New York

Schenectady said goodbye to April with help from Wishbone Ash last night at the beautiful Van Dyck Restaurant & Lounge. The band has been together for over 40 years and gone through several lineup changes with only one original member weathering the storm, Andy Powell (lead guitar, vocals).The rest of the band now is Bob Skeat (bass, vocals), Jyrki "Muddy" Manninen (guitar) and Joe Crabtree (drummer), who looks young enough to be the son of everyone else in the band! To his credit, Crabtree fits in very well with all of the elder statesman of the band.
When we arrived there traveling from the Berkshires, not knowing what to expect because it was our first visit, we found it interesting how it was tucked away down some of the side streets of Schenectady. You would never know that the building was a restaurant or place for entertainment by looking at it if it wasn’t for the big sign out front. It was once two houses so that is understandable. The trip was a simple and stress free one which took a little over an hour.
Upon walking in the Van Dyck we were immediately impressed with the beauty and elegance of the interior. We made our way upstairs to the area where there was a stage and tables. The atmosphere was fantastic there and the food was superb!  I had a turkey panini that was delicious! The service provided by the hard working staff there was terrific as well. We were very impressed with every aspect of the evening but the best was yet to come.
The room seats around 50-70 people and there is a balcony above the main floor where you can view the band fully, which we thought may be a good place to go after we ate. However, that idea was snuffed when some people came while we were eating (they will not serve you in the balcony area) and they knew exactly where they were going thus taking all the available seating. It worked out well as there really is not a bad seat in the house. The are some huge steel beams on the ceiling with steel posts going down the center of the floor that do not allow you a full frontal view of the band however if you just move your chair to the right or left it looks just fine. After all, everyone is so close how can you not see? The sound man did a nice job with the mix and it being an old jazz club originally (1947) gave us the opportunity to experience the renowned sound and resonance a band can accomplish in the room.
When we went up to the balcony to check it out Wishbone Ash were introduced and walked right by us. I said hello to Andy as he passed. He smiled with guitar in hand as he made his way to the stage.
Having recently covered their A Rockumentary-This Is Wishbone Ash, which was set in the French countryside, I already knew this lineup had some great chemistry going for it and they sounded great. Andy Powell sounds great after all these years and his unique vocals have been the trademark of the band for a long time now. They played a lot of their classic tracks including “Blowin’ Free”, “Throw Down The Sword”, ‘Warrior” and “The King Will Come” along with new song titled “Can’t Go It Alone” which sounded great. Andy mentioned they were having difficulty completing the new album because of constant touring but were anticipating the release of the new album this summer.
Each band member is an excellent musician in their own right and they mesh very well. At one point I was watching how Andy was holding his hand on his Flying V and it looked very painful to say the least. Regardless, he looked perfectly comfortable, probably having played the song hundreds of times live. My point being the music Wishbone Ash plays can be very complex and if you are musician attempting to play these songs it will likely require some time and effort. They are both progressive and classic rock, the perfect blend for these ears. The highlight of the night was magnum opus “Phoenix” which featured guitarist Jyrki "Muddy" Manninen. This was first time during the show when Muddy cut loose to show us all that he was made of. Although Andy plays most of the lead and does a dueling guitar role with Muddy they both are exceptional technicians and players with the six strings. As the show closed, disappointment set in because it seemed to go by so fast. I can understand why the venue wanted two shows (8pm and 10pm) because of the capacity it holds and everyone wants to make it worthwhile from a profit standpoint. I could have easily sat and listened to them for another hour or more for the simple fact that they were so good.
The merchandise area was a great treat, featuring posters, CDs and other collectables. Meeting the band after the set and getting our purchases signed made up for the fact that it seemed to end so quickly. The band makes it a point to be very accessible to the fans and the nice thing about that is the fact that there was not a large crowd there making the entire experience more appetizing and enjoyable.
I would highly recommend the entire Wishbone Ash experience; it was very enjoyable and satisfying in every way. I would go to the Van Dyck again in a heartbeat, it is a great venue that makes everyone there very comfortable and they obviously want you to have a great time. Mission accomplished last night!
Set List:
Blowin’ Free
Bona Fide
You See Red
Open Road
The Power
Can’t Go It Alone
Throw Down The Sword
Northern Lights
Front Page News
The King Will Come
Reason To Believe
Engine Overheat

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
May 1, 2011

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