[MUSIC ~ UK]
Governor Hindmarsh Hotel, Fri 29 Nov.
As Jethro Tull’s lead guitarist Martin Barre spent decades in the shadows of front man Ian Anderson. In the Martin Barre Band he is free to step forward and be the front man and it suits him. It’s always interesting to see where long term members of famous bands take their music when they resurface in other line-ups. Martin Barre has chosen to take the rockier side of Jethro Tull songs to another level. He does this by selecting several songs from the earlier blues based Tull catalogue, and executing all the material with an emphasis on power driven guitar riffs. It felt like a time warp.
Middle aged men bopped in the front rows (with barely a woman in sight) as they lapped up every lick Barre delivered with obvious delight. Hero worship even. But there was a lot to love. This band reminded me just how good a rock band Tull were, and central to that are many great signature guitar riffs born through the hands of Martin Barre. Aqualung is the most famous of them. But there is also Cross-Eyed Mary, Hymn 43, Teacher, A New Day Yesterday – again with a strong blues influence. And these signature riffs establish a solid base over which the band, Barre in particular, extemporise and joust with each other. Some duelling guitar breaks with Dan Crisp were excellent, similarly with Alan Thomson on bass.
Crisp is also the band’s singer. He may not have the ability to sustain the melodic nuances that Ian Anderson once brought to these songs, but he is a fine singer, and his quirky on-stage demeanour was entertaining to watch and an effective foil to Barre’s antics. After all, part of the joy of rock guitarists is watching how they move.
This band clearly enjoys playing with each other. There were lots of smiles and shared an appreciation of each-others playing and that is always a good sign. Tull at their peak played to packed stadiums and you got the feeling that Martin Barre really enjoyed playing in a smaller venue where he could actually see, and even talk to, his audience. He was quite chatty in fact.
In a recent interview Ian Anderson was asked how he’d feel about playing with Martin Barre again. Interestingly, he said he wouldn’t mind but he didn’t think it would be a very good idea for Martin. And after seeing Barre’s band in action you’d have to agree. Martin Barre looked like a man who is enjoying the freedom of being released from the mega band that was Jethro Tull. He seems quite comfortable with the spotlight being on him, and he clearly hasn’t lost any of his passion for classic electric guitar-based rock music. He is ranked in the top 25 rock guitarists of all time, and it’s easy to see why.
It felt good to be in the presence of rock royalty.