Galway, Róisin Dubh, 30 Nov 2004

1 Dec 2004
Following Celtic Ways
John Willmott

John Martyn in Galway

Just returned from the John Martyn gig at Róisin Dubh in Galway.

I have not seen John Martyn since the 80s and always at festivals and largish events. The Roisin Dubh is an incredibly run intimate venue. It's a kind of informal club-theatre at the back of a novel pub. I say novel because this is a pub with bookshelves of books. The sound and lighting system is a mystery. The PA consists of a couple of small speakers hanging from the ceiling and lighting is a few bulbs, but what those guys there do with mixing both needs to be taught to engineers of larger venues. If you have seen John Martyn, you'll know that his band require quite a bit of gear to get the right sounds but the Roisin Dubh sound guys created a very clear huge theatre sound from the band. It was incredible. The previous week I had seen Black 47 there, also a 'loud' band but very, very clear.

John performed for almost 3 hours without a break and provided the best performance I have ever seen him do with the best band I have ever seen him with. Providing such a generous concert allowed him to share his new material with well-known standards such as May You Never, Cooltide, Don't Want To Know, Big Muff, Dealer (Let Me In), Johnny Too Bad and others with the audience singing along. He did not do Solid Air, which was strange, but even without that smooth crooner this was quite a sensuous night. The old songs have acquired new smoother, yet intricate, arrangements that I preferred to the originals.

John Martyn is still a guitar hero as well as songster supported by a band of musicianship and unique skills that you would find awesome. More than anything, it's the atmosphere that his music provides plus John is wonderful with his audience with his humble joking chatter between songs and an eager willingness to perform what the audience wants, and not leave until the audience is satisfied.

There were no encores, well after almost 3 hours non-stop?
Unfortunately, John is no longer the fit man who boogied around the stage with his echoplexing guitar but I hope that his health maintains his ability to keep us alive with his music for many more years to come because today that music is better than it's ever been.

This review was posted on the former Following Celtic Ways weblog.