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John Martyn at The Lowry

Published on June 8th 2005.

Entering to a huge roar from a near capacity crowd, a sparse stage set suggesting a night of excellent music rather than a visual spectacular, John Martyn eased into his chair and peered at his audience.

Somewhat of a renaissance man he must be getting happier as the years roll on to see so many young people among all the old hands appreciating music that he has been writing and performing for over 30 years.

Its always a bit of a lottery as to whether John will have been on the ‘sauce’ when he plays his shows, and unfortunately (or entertainingly) it’s usually that he has. As far as I could tell, tonight was no exception and consequently I was unable to make out almost anything he said all night. Not that there was much too banter, pausing only to sip what looked like red wine, he quickly got down to business.

The set was split as in other gigs, but there was none of the warm-up feel to the first set, as other reviews have noted. In fact, John was on top form throughout, from the opening of ‘Glorious fool’ which moved swiftly in to Solid Air’s excellent ‘The man in the station’; to the rip-roaring version of now traditional set closer ‘Johnny Too Bad’.

His backing band were the usual suspects made up of Spencer Cozens - keyboards, Alan Thompson – bass and the excellent Arran Ahmun on drums. My only criticism of these guys and indeed the whole show was that they were almost to good, producing a slick professional session playing style that at points can make the show seem sterile and soulless. (I would pay 10 times tonight’s ticket price to have seen John play with Danny Thompson et al).

Having said that the majority of the evening was simply sophistication with guts, the audience (who obviously didn’t share my view) seemed to appreciate the flawless performance with each song being met with encore like applause and each joke (which they couldn’t possibly have heard), with unrestrained laughter.

The tone and atmosphere of the gig was taken to new heights when the band went off stage for a short break and John picked up his acoustic guitar, giving us storming renditions of ‘I Don't Want to Know/My Creator’, and ‘Suzanne’. We get so little guitar on John Martyn’s more recent albums that live gigs are the only chance we have to hear the man plug in and let rip, laid bare John Martyn is still an awesome sight.

Laughing and smiling, John seemed to be actually having fun, it’s great to still have him around and it’s great that he is as popular (if not more so) than ever. All Contemporary singer – songwriters should be judged by this standard.

1st Set -
Glorious Fool,
Man In The Station,
New Song (He introduced as the lyric being Unfinished), Lookin On.

2nd Set-
She's A Love/Solid Air,
Easy Blues,
May You Never,
I Don't Wanna Know/My Creator,
Bless The Weather,
Make No Mistake,
Big Muff,
Salt and Nails,
Never Let Me Go
Johnny Too Bad.

The Lowry
Pier 8
Salford Quays
M50 3AZ
Telephone: 0870 787 5780
Fax: 0161 876 2001
web: www.thelowry.com

Tim Mullett

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