London, North London Poly, 7 Nov 1975

15 Nov 1975
New Musical Express
Kate Phillips
John Martyn

STUDENTS MAKE the most easy-going audiences a performer could wish for. They'll sit on hard floors; they'll drink terrible beer out of the bottle because the Union ran out of glasses; they'll wait with endless laidback politesse while the sound system collapses and the drummer has a crise de nerfs; and then they'll do their utmost to enjoy whatever entertainment's offered, and applaud it lovingly before plodding out into the night to write their overdue essays.

Sometimes I feel they're not properly appreciated.

Last Friday night1 at the Poly was not one of those do's where members of the S.U. pay about 30p to see a Union-subsidised concert. They'd shelled out more than a pound2 from their fast-dwindling grants to see Martyn and bassist Danny Thompson.

And when, eventually, well over an hour late, the show began, I was glad to see that many of them felt they were getting their money's worth. The rest nodded out quietly where they lay and troubled no-one.

It wasn't Martyn's fault, of course, that Danny had bent his double bass and had to scour London for a substitute before matters could proceed: but when the pair actually arrived onstage, they could have done with just a little tiny bit more push and adrenalin to get things moving. And a little less fussing with the amps and jovially joshing one another between numbers.

Still, that's jazz for you. Even the 'jazz-influence' from which he suffers is enough to paralyse any latent rock and roll madness in Martyn, it seems.

The words of his songs were inaudible. I don't know if that's important. His instrumentals sounded like the jam sessions of weekend bands with their first-ever echo chamber, over-eager to exploit its marvels. And his stage presence was not invigorating.

At least the set was pretty long. I don't know exactly how long, though, because while it was still in progress, I picked my way through all the supine bodies and left.

Kate Phillips

1 The concert took place Friday 7th November 1975.
2 £1.10 advance, £1.30 door.
In the hitparade of stupid reviews, this one is going to end high..
It ran in the On The Town section. Material kindly provided by John Neil Munro.