Glasgow, Pavilion, 9 Feb 1986

10 Feb 1986
Glasgow Herald
David Belcher
Pavilion, Glasgow
David Belcher
John Martyn

ARE audiences the same the world over? I was going to say that if one way to judge an artist is by the diversity of the audience he attracts then John Martyn, after 20 years on the boards, need have no great fears for the future. From unreconstituted hippies (one of whom danced trance like in a green woolly hat all night) to severe post-punks most musical lifestyles were here. Yet this is to ignore the Glasgow syndrome.

Martyn's music has covered a few bases too, blending folk, jazz, and blues. Yet some of last night's stuff, both old and new, laid back a little too closely to the Californian hip easy listening line, all facile melody, no risks offered or taken. Classy and tasteful certainly, but also unmemorable.

A noisy minority of the more elderly erstwhile love-children were quick to chide with loud, disparaging jealous comments between songs. Only in Glasgow do we pay to insult the ones we once claimed to love.

Almost in reply Martyn briefly bade farewell to his backing band, strapped on an acoustic guitar and played a fine rolling blues-tinged ode to "my mentor who is present tonight Hamish Imlach." This post-punk observer was won over.

Another solo work followed revealing that Martyn's breathy gravelly voice perhaps works best in isolation, insinuating, echoing, working to fill a vacuum. The rest, with the band again, was only occasionally as excellent, never less than pleasant but never very much more (although not deserving of crowd abuse).

There may be two lessons for John Martyn here. Work up more careful, more sparse band arrangements and charge hecklers double at the door.

This review was published in the Monday edition of the Glasgow Herald, one day after the concert.