UPSTAIRS AT MAX's KANSAS CITY, NYC. - All too often a performer will not realize his own limitations and his live performance will be directly affected as a result. Such was the case with A&M recording artist Rick Roberts (formerly of The Flying Burrito Brothers) who dared to face the Max's Upstairs audience with nothing more than a simple acoustic guitar.
Roberts' initial solo LP effort, Windmills, expertly displayed his fine talent but unfortunately his live renditions lacked percussion, lead and steel guitars, fiddle and keyboard which were so vitally important to the album. Roberts can carry an audience, but not for a full hour alone. Not with the same regurgitated chords over and over again and not with silly chit chat between numbers to keep the audience awake. On that same level his vocals are strong but they too tend to wear thin on the ears without the necessary backing.
Highlights of Roberts' set were few and far between but John David Souther's The Fast One and Rick's own In A Dream and Davy McVie did stand out as accomplished pieces which easily succeed with accompaniment.
Although his set was lackluster at best, Roberts' performance did carry with it a glimmer of hope for the future. Judging by the quality of his debut album, things will considerably improve with the addition of those very necessary back up musicians.
Opening the bill was Island Records (Capitol) recording artist John Martyn who was truly dazzling on acoustic guitar throughout his set and demonstrated finesse as folk singer, blues dealer and electric musician as he performed material from his fourth album, Curved Air.1
Martyn's vocals are of high quality and wide ranging and always perfectly accent his music which is, for the most part, soft and relaxed. Having recently completed a U.S. tour with Traffic, it would seem apparent that the public will finally be picking up on this promising talent. The future indeed looks bright for one John Martyn, a Briton with taste and quality to match.
1 Too funny to correct.
This review was published in Cash Box of 31 March 1973. The concert date is unknown but it must have been after 24 March. Author a.g. was probably New York staff member Arty Goodman.