Gig review: MARTIN BARRE BAND, ARC, Stockton-on-Tees, 2 November 2017

Martin Barre - Great British Rock & Blues Festival 2015

Despite a 4am collective jet-lagged wake-up call – no doubt nudged on by their just-closed nine week US tour – the Martin Barre Band opened the first date of a short UK tour with a swift instrumental, followed by crowd pleasing and firm one-two punch of ‘Minstrel In The Gallery’ and ‘Steel Monkey’. The latter featuring a remarkable bass line from Alan Thomson, in place of the sequencer track on the ‘Crest Of The Knave’ album original.

Back in 2014 when I first saw the band at the very first Giants of Rock, it was clear that Martin Barre’s idea to pick at the weave of his rich heritage of Tull songs to bring a fresh approach was going to be a winner.

Tonight, highlights amongst these included a rocked up ‘Song For Jeffrey’, ‘Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of A New Day’, ‘Sweet Dream’ and a rarely-heard ‘Sea Lion’ from 1974′s ‘Warchild’.

Since that Giant’s performance the band has recorded two albums – another is in progress Martin told us – and we learned, from the current album, ‘A Moment Of Madness’ was a song “inspired by the danger of too much late night Gorgonzola”.

The title track of ‘Back To Steel’ also featured, along with ‘Bad Man’ for which singer-guitarist Dan swapped over to Alan’s bass, whilst the bassist strapped on guitar for some tasty slide. ‘Hunting Girl’ from ‘Songs From The Wood’ closed the first half.

In the past, a couple of covers have always found a home in the Martin Barre Band set – something from Gov’t Mule and the classic ‘Watch Your Step’ for instance – but none of us were prepared tonight for a duo from the Fab Four who Martin told us delightedly he and a mate had seen – “but couldn’t hear for the screams – including mine” – back in 1964 in Blackpool.

And so, we were treated to frankly remarkable re-imaginings of both ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’. Not only that, if your heart sinks at the mention of yet another crack at ‘Crossroads’ – be prepared to be stunned at the simple, but vicious performance from this band.

The camaraderie amongst the core of Alan, Dan Crisp and Martin is infectious and a joy to experience. The band is tight and now with newcomer Arun Graham on drums, they really have hit gold.  The lad played a blinder.

Review by Ian Wood


3 November – Flowerpot, Derby
4 November – Trading Boundaries, Fletching
5 November – Robin 2, Bilston
6 November – Guildhall, Preston

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Power Plays w/c 13 May (Mon-Fri)

WARM RAIN Here Comes The Rain Again (Rain Recordings)
DARWIN Cosmic Rays (indie)
MICHAEL THOMPSON BAND Love & Beyond (Frontiers)
MARQUIS DRIVE Shine On (indie)
YOUR LIFE & MINE Remind To Remember (indie)
EMERALD SUN What becomes Of You (indie)

Featured Albums w/c 13 May (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 JIM PETERIK WORLD STAGE Winds Of Change (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 WHITESNAKE Flesh & Blood (Frontiers)
14:00-16:00 BUFORD POPE The Waiting Game (Unchained Records)

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

NEVER THE BRIDE Surprise (2005)

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