Gig review: MARTIN BARRE BAND – Lomax, Liverpool, 6 September 2014

On Sunday 28 September, on the eve of the release of ‘Order Of Play’, you can hear Martin Barre chatting about his favourite tracks.  In the second hour of a two-hour special, we’ll be playing some Martin Barre highlights: with Tull, solo, and his session recorded for GRTR! last year. Send us your own suggestions/recollections for featured tracks, use our contact form here

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Martin Barre Band - Liverpool, 6 September 2014

How times change.  Martin Barre’s earliest visit to Liverpool with Jethro Tull appears to be in 1971 when the band played two shows at the University.  A year later they played the legendary Liverpool Stadium and performed ‘Thick As A Brick’. Subsequently it was the more salubrious Liverpool Empire and, latterly, the hallowed portals of the Philharmonic Hall.  Now, in 2014, the Martin Barre Band played the shit-hole that is the Lomax.

The Lomax may have witnessed Oasis back in 1994 and the burgeoning Britpop scene – and therefore affording it “legendary” status – but it is still a shit-hole, albeit a friendly and welcoming one.  But, it doesn’t seem right that an Elder Statesman of Rock and a pioneer of progressive rock guitar is exposed to its dubious “charms”, even less so to a persistent heckler.

In most venues the reveller with a tinny would have been quickly ejected but – as a measure of the Lomax – the “manager” embraced this constant irritant like a long lost soul brother.  Liverpool Love or a world gone mad?

Martin Barre - Lomax, Liverpool, 6 September 2014

Much is made of the new album ‘Order Of Play’ and its “live” feel – recorded on the back of the band’s last extensive tour when they felt they could do justice to the then current setlist.  But in truth the more interesting stuff played tonight is not on the album!  This included blues covers (‘Smokestack Lightning’), a tremendous Gov’t Mule work-out, and even a version of Porcupine Tree’s ‘Blackest Eyes’ (chosen by Martin as a favourite track in his selection for Get Ready to ROCK! Radio recently.  This show is repeated on Sunday 28 September).

Maybe this extensive tour – which takes them to Europe and then back to the UK in December – will yield another “live” album in the future?

Normally structured in two halves, the band decided tonight to play through without a break but I understand in doing so they missed out a new Dan Crisp song and one of Martin’s.  I blame the heckler.  It can’t be inspiring having “Mr Tinny” swaying at you and muttering drivel – on his own, front of stage – for the duration.

Martin Barre Band - Lomax, Liverpool, 6 September 2014

Dan Crisp was perhaps the real revelation tonight although he looks frighteningly like Joe Bonamassa.  I’m sure if Joe felt he couldn’t continue with his tenth night at the Royal Albert Hall, Dan would be your man.  A star role in “Joe – The Musical” must surely await.  He supplied spritely vocal interpretations of the Tull back catalogue (and way more convincing than a certain Ryan O’Donnell) but it was his harmony guitar that also impressed, allowing Martin space and a sound that replicated the album versions.

I mentioned in my album review that Barre plays in a very supportive band role:  he’s  a very generous, thoughtful performer.  Tonight, when he did stretch out as on ‘Thorazine’  it was – of course -  fantastic.  The band even thoughtfully included a very good arrangement of ‘Eleanor Rigby’.

When I interviewed Martin in the week of band rehearsals I playfully mentioned a few “classics” from his earlier solo albums – hoping he might have been receptive to the idea.  As it turns out,  he did include two of the songs discussed: ‘Misere’ and ‘Bug’, the latter energised as expected by Richard Beesley’s sax.

These tunes are highly melodic with gently shifting time signatures and – ‘Misere’ in particular – a brilliant showcase for Barre’s lyrical and authoritative guitar.

Martin Barre Band - Liverpool, 6 September 2014

Beesley was another highlight although used sparingly.  He could have perhaps added even more muscle to the dark and sinewy ‘Thorazine Shuffle’ (a showcase for drummer George Lindsay) and strangely he was not on stage for another great Barre set-piece ‘Paparazzi’.  Honourable mentions too for Alan Thomson (who spent many years in John Martyn’s band) on bass and who showed his versatility playing mandolin with Martin and Dan during the more rustic interlude of ‘Hymn’ and ‘Crossroads’.

With a rousing final flourish of Tull – again rendered more potent by Barre’s re-imagination – and the welcome, if perhaps inevitable, encore ‘Locomotive Breath’ this was a wonderful gig which would have satiated the faithful.

Barre’s future direction will be interesting.  New Tull tracks will replace old ones rather than bloat the setlist and more originals will surface.  Barre appears to be revelling in his “new band” status and long may he continue and flourish.

Setlist: Minstrel In The Gallery/ Steal Your Heart Away/ Watch Your Step/ To Cry You A Song/ Misere/ Eleanor Rigby/ Thick As A Brick (excerpt)/ Sweet Dream/ Song For Jeffrey/ Thorazine Shuffle/ Blackest Eyes/ Paparazzi/ Martin’s Jig-Hymn/ Crossroads/ Smokestack Lightning/ Rock Me Baby/ Teacher/ Fat Man/ New Day Yesterday/ Encore: Locomotive Breath

Review and photos by David Randall

Martin Barre Band, Lomax, Liverpool, 6 September 2014

Album review (and interview edit)

The latest Josh Taerk live session was streamed on Sunday 12 December. The session above was a Halloween Special streamed on 31 October 2021. Josh’s next session is Sunday 30 January 2022.

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David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 GMT, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 19 December 2021 and celebrates The Best of 2021 based on the GRTR! reviewer selections and popular poll results.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020 and 2021 Finalist) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 GMT as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 4 January and features show highlights from the year (Part 2).

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