The International Guitar Festival Of Great Britain, held annually for many years, has been a showcase for some of the world’s finest players.
Sadly, it has lost its focus a little in recent years with acts appearing that have no thread to guitar playing (China Crisis? Leo Sayer??..) – so it was uplifting to see a true legend of the art playing the excellent Floral Pavilion Theatre.
Martin Barre, since 1969 and until recently, had been guitarist in Jethro Tull, and – in much the same way as Steve Hackett has done with the Genesis legacy – has put together an outstanding group of musicians to both perpetuate ‘Tull’s awesome 50 year legacy and, perhaps, to demonstrate what an intrinsic part of the ‘Tull sound he was (is) in his own right.
The audience demographic was almost entirely of pensionable age but you wouldn’t have expected anything else – this is the music we grew up with, the music that shaped our lives, although back in the day when we went to see them we would rush the stage at the end. These days we rush the gents…
Martin shyly ambled on stage, thanked the audience for turning up (as if we had any choice) then launched into ‘A Song For Jeffrey’ and ‘My Sunday Feeling’ – an odd start as he didn’t play on the ‘This Was’ album but chronologically (and the gig was chronological) it made sense.
‘Stand Up’ was plundered for ‘Back To The Family’, a superb ‘For A Thousand Mothers’ and ‘Nothing Is Easy’ with ‘Benefit’ giving up ‘To Cry You A Song’ and ‘Teacher’.
I have to say I was interested in how the band would cope without Ian Anderson’s flute and front-man theatrics, but the quality of the musicians and a judicious choice of material overcame the issue – as did the appearance of ‘Tull legends Clive Bunker (drums) and (ahead of her time!) Dee Palmer (keyboards).
Anderson never does this – when you’re out, you’re out…
Dan Crisp is a great choice as vocalist – sounding like Anderson but without resorting to pastiche and the engine room of Alan Thomson (bass) and primary drummer Darby Todd is as tight as a gnat’s chuff.
Following a brilliant ‘Cross Eyed Mary’ and other tracks from ‘Aqualung’ and ‘Thick As A Brick’, Becca Langsford and Alex Hart were introduced to the stage for a wonderful interlude of acoustic tracks.
Every gig has its ‘gear-shift’ moment and I think for most of the audience this was it – female voices accompanied by Martin’s impeccable acoustic through ‘Cheap Day Return’, ‘Life Is A Long Song’, a marvellous ‘One White Duck’ and ‘Wond’ring Aloud’ seemed to set in train a wonderful run of gems – not least the “heavy metal” of ‘Steel Monkey’ and ‘Jump Start’ – culminating with the blues cadences of ‘A New Day Yesterday’ and the inevitable encore of ‘Locomotive Breath’.
The back projection of highlights from Jethro Tull’s history coupled with graphic images from the time added to the enjoyment of what was simply a marvellous night of music. When Martin was interviewed a few years back for Get Ready to ROCK! Radio he relished the thought of a “proper” big production for his live show. This was it.
Barre may be 72 now but looks well and shows little enthusiasm for slowing down.
And long may it continue – for music needs artists like these. In a world obsessed with the cult of celebrity and vacuous talent show wannabes, true talent will always be a rare commodity.
We should cherish it while we can.
Review by Alan Jones
Photos by David Randall
A Song for Jeffrey / My Sunday Feeling / Back To The Family / For A Thousand Mothers / Nothing Is Easy / To Cry You A Song / Teacher / Cross-Eyed Mary / Hymn 43 / Aqualung / Thick As A Brick (excerpt) / Cheap Day Return (acoustic) / Life Is A Long Song (acoustic) / One White Duck (acoustic) / Wondring Aloud (acoustic) / War Child / Bungle In The Jungle / Heavy Horses / Songs From The Wood / Hunting Girl / Steel Monkey / Jump Start / A New Day Yesterday. Encore: Locomotive Breath
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