Review and Photos by Rich Ward
For over forty years, Birmingham born Martin Barre was the lead guitarist for Jethro Tull. For reasons not fully disclosed, Ian Anderson has decided to tour and record as a solo artist for the last few years which has encouraged Martin to do the same. While his solo endeavours go back to the early nineties, he has become more prolific with his third album in two years due to be released shortly. Tonight is his third return to the Robin and its appreciative crowd, and a date on what is quite a lengthy European Tour.
With no support band, it’s a real value for money night with two sets and only a short break between giving just over two hours worth of material. The set kicks in and it’s not long until the first Tull classic is dusted off with vocalist Dan Crisp giving an excellent take on ‘Minstrel In The Gallery’. Martin’s guitar tone is superb and also the clarity of George Lindsay’s drums stands out. Fairly early on in the set, Martin dedicates ‘Song For Jeffrey’ to Glenn Cornick, Tull’s original bass player, who had sadly passed away a couple of days earlier.
Tonight is also Dan Crisp’s birthday, and Martin opens the smallest bottle of Champagne you could imagine to celebrate. It’s quickly shared out, and Dan gives his to someone in the front row, ‘I hope you paid for the VIP experience’ quips Martin.
The Tull songs are all reworked to differing degrees. Indeed, for a start the flute has been eschewed in favour of a variety of brass courtesy of Richard Beesley. ’Fatman’ has been rocked up a little and sounds fantastic. Alan Thomson’s basswork certainly helps in filling out the sound. It’s not all about the Tull work though; the set is peppered with covers such as The Beatles’ ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and Bobby Parker’s ‘Steal Your Heart Away’. More recently covered by Joe Bonamassa, it’s at this moment that I realise that Dan Crisp bears more than a passing resemblance to said bluesman. Barre’s own songs are also included; ‘Misere’, in particular, got a great reaction from the crowd, but I also equally enjoyed the smouldering blues of ‘Thorazine Shuffle’.
There do seem to be more Tull songs in the set this time around; we get treated to an excerpt of ‘Thick As A Brick’, ‘Paparazzi’ and ‘Teacher’ amongst other. The finale is left to a lengthy workout of ‘Locomotive Breath’. A great evening which sees Barre at ease performing a well balanced set of material.
Martin Barre’s Order Of Play album is on general release on 29th September and he returns to the region on 20th December at Leamington Assembly.