Wishbone Ash are performing “Phoenix,” the last song in their set. About five minutes into it, a switch is flipped, transforming it into a gallop with perfect twin-guitar harmony rock music. Andy Powell had told the crowd it’s about “birth, redemption, and death,” but in that moment, it’s about the quintessential sound of Wishbone Ash.

That’s what we’re here to celebrate. Fifty years ago, the band released “Live Dates,” a live album recorded in various “Town Halls,” using the Rolling Stones’ indoor rig, and here in 2023, the current group is recreating it.

The band essentially thrives on its guitar sound, and Powell’s collaboration with Mark Abrahams (he’s been playing our music since he was nine years old, says the leader) is sensational on “The King Will Come.”

My entry point into the band may not have been conventional, but it involved me checking them out because Steve Harris mentioned them in every interview I read. Listening to “Warrior” tonight, you get a sense of where Iron Maiden drew their prog (ish) sound from in the last 15 years or so.

“Rock N Roll Widow” has a more “classic” rock flavour, while “Ballad Of The Beacon,” recorded in Anglesey while looking at drizzly hills, thrives on its harmonies.

A playful cover of Jimmy Reed’s blues standard, “Baby What You Want Me To Do,” ends part one but sets the tone for part two in its jam as well.

The songs here are more intricate, but there’s such a sense of fun, especially on the solo in “The Pilgrim” (which starts the second half) and elsewhere that it’s irresistible.

“Blowin’ Free” has a real boogie feel, “Jail Bait” sees the four musicians cut loose for a jam, and “Lady Whiskey” proves the debut’s class, reinforcing my belief that the best things don’t age.

After “Phoenix” joyfully concludes, there’s an encore of “Persephone.” It may not have been on the original “Live Dates” album, but it belongs on this tour. It brings a superb show to a close, but it surely proves that the only way to sustain a career for over 50 years is to have great songs that connect and play them excellently. Wishbone Ash accomplishes both of these things here.

Playing an album all the way through seems less restrictive when it’s a live album, and this clever approach is what you’d expect from one of Britain’s cleverest rock bands.

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