London, Marquee, 7 Sep 1977

17 Sep 1977
Melody Maker
Chris Brazier

Last time I encountered John Martyn was at university amid an adoring cross-legged audience, and then the sheer power of the cult esotericism he generated was too much for me to stomach. Martyn, after all, is the archetypal case of cult following/ critical kudos/ minimal popular break-out, and that makes for a hi-fidelity following which half-resents outsiders, torn as they are between wanting success for the artist and wanting him to remain exclusively theirs.

Martyn's whole on-stage personality -beer-swilling fagbutt earthiness coupled with humourous intelligence- encourages that kind of response, as do his mumbled vocals (you can only make out the words if you've got his albums). But this time he won me over, despite the London Marquee's sweaty faint-trap.

His husky but lubricated voice slides rather than grates despite its roughness, just this side of a moan as his tongue lools around the words. His set is split between flashy guitar effects and gentle love-songs but somehow the whole evening seems to fall within a consistent mood - late-night music for when you're wasted or wistful or both.

Sometimes he goes over the top in his one-man Floyd bit, putting just too many meanders into the pieces, but at other times his random exploration as he does lazy justice to each theme, creates entrancing seascapes full of waves and caves.

And the aural caress of songs like One Day Without You and Spencer The Rover pleads for sympathetic response... You got it, John, and anyone who says he'd play six nights in a club rather than one in a hall where everyone is "12 miles away" deserves all the good reviews he gets. - CHRIS BRAZIER.

The concert might also have taken place one day later as John played two consecutive shows.
This was published in the reviews section; scan kindly provided by John Neil Munro

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