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

In his show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio on Sunday 29 March David Randall featured a selection of tracks from “Albums of the Month” (January-March 2020) (29:45)

Listen in to Get Ready to ROCK! Radio…
Click the appropriate icons at the top of the page.

Featured Albums w/c 30 March (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 HARTMANN 15 Pearls And Gems (AOR Heaven)
12:00-13:00 H.E.A.T. II (earMUSIC)
14:00-16:00 GRAHAM GOULDMAN Modesty Forbids (Lojinx)

Power Plays w/c 30 March (Mon-Fri)

LOUISE LEMON Devil (Icons Creating Evil Art )
BLACK ORCHID EMPIRE Winter Keeps Us Warm (indie)
ONE DESIRE Shadowman (Frontiers)
CRYSTAL IGNITE Black Mamba (indie)
PICTURESQUE ATTN: (Rude Records/Equal Vision Records)
SKARLETT RIOT Human (indie)

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