Renfrew Ferry, Glasgow
APPARENTLY there are two John Martyns. There is the electric John Martyn and there is the acoustic John Martyn. Actually, there is a third John Martyn. There is Iain McGeachy, former pupil of Shawlands Academy, who went off to London in the 1960s to find fame and fortune as a folk singer and guitarist called John Martyn. He was back in Glasgow last night to deliver his customary measured performance to an audience who, judging by the age differences, were old and new friends.
Martyn has matured and improved over the years but he remains an acquired taste. Those who appreciate him (and count me in) are devoted fans. His distinctive, unique vocal chords have not weakened one iota and, despite his years in the South, he still retains a Glasgow accent of which he can be proud.
Five years ago Martyn would have needed a five-piece band to achieve the sound he offered last night. Thanks to dozens of funny little machines it took only the man himself and an accompanist aboard the Renfrew Ferry. Left to his own devices, the result was a 90-minute set of beauty and power, creating a rarified atmosphere for those fortunate enough to be there.
He covered the works, starting with the gentle Angeline, moving through the familiarly melodic Sweet Little Mystery, and his little anthem for friendship, May You Never. Power was provided when he thought he was John Wayne and when he ended the set with Johnny Too Bad.
After all, there is only one John Martyn.
This review appeared in the Arts section of Glasgow Herald of Monday 8 May 1989 (page 10). The concert therefore took place on Sunday 7 May. The 'accompanist' must have been Foster Paterson.