Sunday, 14 December 2014

Martin Barre

5th December 2014
The rear of Martin's most recent CD has this rather cryptic 1A
message on the top.  I am aware it is the house number
outside which Martin standing, but it looks suspiciously like
some sublte reference to his former band-mate's initials.

The Cluny, Newcastle

One wonders occasionally just exactly what has gone on between Martin Barre and his former Jethro Tull buddy of forty-three years Ian Anderson.  For although both appear on the surface perfectly happy to discuss the divorce, each have apparently perfected the art of talking a lot, but not actually saying anything very enlightening.

That hoary old chestnut Musical Differences appears to be getting the blame, but I cannot help but wonder if Royalties is actually behind it all – Mr Anderson (allegedly) being a notoriously assiduous collector of songwriting credits.

Whatever has happened, what is patently true is that both parties are now recording and touring under their own monikers, and that the name of that famed 18th Century agriculturalist has seemingly been consigned to history for a second time.

Upon arriving at The Sage in Newcastle, I took the opportunity to empty my bladder before the gig started, whereupon I noted the very Mr Barre standing doing the same as I entered the Gents.  Well I suppose even rock-stars have to take a leak sometime.  Considerately waiting until he had completed his ablutions, I hit him with “Not pre-gig nerves is it?”, which I thought represented a reasonably witty remark, given the short period of time I had at my disposal to think one up.

However Martin, with a poker face, immediately trumped me in his uniquely polite voice with: “No, that would be diarrhoea.”

After which we engaged in a brief, if slightly surreal, conversation about the effect chick-peas may have upon the digestion process.

Martin Barre Band - Newcastle 2014

Any nerves notwithstanding, Martin’s set opened with a couple of Bobby Parker covers followed by two Tull tunes; this opening period pretty much setting the scene for the whole evening: standards and Tull tunes in equal measure, with overall a significant jacking up of the riff-quotient in both.  

Of the covers, The Porcupine Tree’s Blackest Eyes and Gov’t Mule’s sleazy Thorazine Shuffle both shone, but the attempt to metallify Eleanor Rigby is perhaps best forgotten.  And there should be an Act of Parliament passed that no-one should be allowed to attempt Smokestack Lightning…….. unless you have Chester Burnett in your line-up.

Pretty much all of the Jethro Tull songs appeared to benefit from the heavier approach, Sweet Dream being an exception which somehow just sounded under-rehearsed and messy (which I am aware cannot truly have been the case).

The two real treats were what the band did with Hymn 43 – converted into a mandolin and bouzouki driven jig - and then Fat Man, wherein Barre dispensed with most of the ethnic subtly of the original; his choppy guitar work converting the Stand Up track into something which may not have sounded out of place on that Franz Ferdinand debut album.

Barre and his band, at least appeared to be having a whale of a time, but I could not help but wonder just what he was thinking as he gazed out over the 200 or so folks who had squashed into this tiny venue, and pondered the crowds of 10-20 times that number who would have attended that final Jethro Tull tour a few short years back.

Watch Your Step
Steal Your Heart Away
Minstrel in the Gallery
To Cry You a Song
Eleanor Rigby
Thick as a Brick
Without Me
Sweet Dream
A Song for Jeffrey
Smokestack Lightning
Thorazine Shuffle
Wond'ring Aloud
Blackest Eyes
Hymn 43
Rock Me Baby
Fat Man
A New Day Yesterday


Locomotive Breath


  1. Love the write-up - esp the chick-pea conversation :-) You're travelling far and wide for gigs these days surely?

    1. I generally tie gigs south of the border in with visits to football grounds for my other blog. Also, this was as far north as Martin ventured.