London, Hammersmith Odeon, 9 Oct 1987

24 Oct 1987
New Musical Express
Jonathan Romney
John Martyn
London Hammersmith Odeon

THE HEAVENS opened up and cast down their torrent, and lo! many came the faithful unto Hammersmith, and lo! so too came some of us poor sods who'd rather have been at home snug and warm, instead of struggling up the flooded stairs of Hammersmith subway like salmon swimming upstream.

Sitting huddled in the stalls, shivering, with pools of water forming around my shoes, I wasn't that inclined to enjoy myself, but John Martyn's set seemed calculated to add insult to injury. It was bad enough his wearing a panama hat and a large, and pretty damn waterproof-looking raincoat, but to make things worse, he played a singularly dull version of his song Sweet Little Mystery, obviously an allusion to Wet Wet Wet1 (myself, I'd have preferred Trouble Funk's Still Soakin'). But even dry, I wouldn't have been too impressed.

In his day, Martyn was one of the most innovative performers around, but on tonight's evidence, he's decided to compete with the Chris Reas and Eric Claptons for the hearts and wallets of an adoring 'mature' audience who'd paid good money to whoop and hee-haw and yell 'Skin up!'. Martyn and his band (ominously featuring a guitarist with his jacket sleeves rolled up)2 lumbered away at an AOR stomp that even Tina Turner would baulk at. His solo spot was more spirited, a bit mechanical, perhaps, but he's been listening to requests for May You Never for nearly fifteen years and it's too late to shake off that albatross now.

The adulation was plain grotesque, though, and proved that the audience was as lazy as the artist. They seemed to be having a rare old time, but even so, they'd have been better off at home listening to Solid Air on their CDs. It certainly wasn't a night worth risking pneumonia for.

Jonathan Romney

1 Wet Wet Wet sort of covered Sweet Little Mystery, initially without John being aware. Later on he got a writing credit.
2 Taj Wyzgowsky played rhythm guitar during the Foundations tour.
The concert took place 9 October 1987 and the review was published 24 October in NME. Material provided by John Neil Munro.

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