Hatfield, Hatfield Polytechnic, 12 Oct 1973

27 Oct 1973
John Sivyer

John Martyn

ACE GUITARIST John Martyn attracted a large audience when he played at the Hatfield Polytechnic last week1, and, as always, delighted them with the sheer brilliance of his guitar playing and comic interludes.

Accompanied by Danny Thompson on double bass, John switched from acoustic to electric guitars, often using wah-wah, fuzz and echo devices. John Martyn's approach to a concert evening is both relaxed and humorous, with gorgeous throw away quips such as, 'Audience participation – you do the gig and I’ll clap'. And there were other hip parodies. These, combined with his strongly mood infected guitar solos, slurred vocals and Danny Thompson's excellent but unobtrusive bass playing, made the concert memorable. Like his Scottish instrumental2 in which he made the electric guitar sound like bagpipes, the bass meanwhile being used as a drone.

Beginning as an essentially folk guitarist, John, whilst retaining that influence, has widened the scope of his music to include both blues and jazz, and it’s with the latter that Danny Thompson's playing really comes to the forefront. Other times, John seemed unnaturally restrained in his performance; not so much technically brilliant, as academically masterful, and only the warmth of his music could overcome this criticism.

So it was good he should choose to end with a very loudly electric number. John singing and playing like a real rock and roller, his guitar sounding one moment almost like a Hawkwind synthesizer, and the other like a blues man who's just discovered electricity. It brought a storm of applause, and of course John and Danny back on stage to play Billy Hilly's beautiful song, The Glory Of Love.


1 The concert took place 12 October 1973. So 'last week' is not quite up to date.
2 Eibhli Ghail Chiuin Ni Chearbhail; The Fair And Charming Eileen O'Carroll.

Material kindly provided by John Neil Munro.

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