London, Apollo-Victoria Theatre, 2 Nov 1980

15 Nov 1980
Record Mirror
Mark Cooper
Apollo Theatre, London
By Mark Cooper

JOHN MARTYN's gigs are always a mixture of repetition and progress. Over the last 10 years or so he has allowed his music to develop slow and steady towards electric band music, never letting himself be rushed and sometimes perversely backpedalling just when the final synthesis seemed near completion. This gig heralded that final synthesis and the creation of John Martyn's band.

Martyn's audience is ex-student and post-hippie and like the man himself resolutely committed to the ingestion of certain substances. Wafts of smoke drifted round the Apollo like it was a JJ Cale gig. Martyn after all makes space music, all echoes and reverbs, playing with repetition and backbeats, a mixture of late-night and sunshine music.

Martyn plus band resembles and transcends the kind of space and rhythm music that Police have made their own. Martyn was doing it first and is funkier than Police when the hubble hits the bubble. As in the case of the Police, Martyn's music suffers from a lack of variation. He has funk numbers (a funk that is uniquely his), the slow slinky numbers like Solid Air and the guitar extravaganzas Small Hours and Outside In1 which alternately set up a humming hard beat or echo off into night time dreams. No-one does them better, no-one does them at all, but that's all he does.

Tonight he plays a long set, opening with May You Never, and going into a relatively abrupt version of Outside In quickly enough. From then on out it's band and blues music, bass, keyboards, and congas and the very excellent Phil Collins on drums and backup vocals on the hypnotic Sweet Little Mystery.

On the harder steam numbers like John's excellent reading of Johnny Too Bad they must be the toughest little funk band in England.

This review was published in Record Mirror of 15 November 1980 (page 39).
1 Cooper consistently writes Inside Out.
Material kindly provided by John Neil Munro.