Seattle, The Backstage, 5 Mar 1994

16 Mar 1994
The Rocket
Chris Nickson
liv'r than u

JOHN MARTYN, THE BACKSTAGE, 3/4.1 In my years of seeing shows, there have only been a handful that could truly be described as transcendent, with a magic that lifted them beyond great to unforgettable. One was John Martyn in 1975. Another was his most recent appearance at the Backstage.

From the moment he plugged in and began Dealer, there was something special. His playing was as sharp as a Saturday suit, his singing a beautiful slur. With his unique guitar style, the string slap and use of delay, no band was necessary.

But it was more than the sum of any parts. Martyn pushed himself, throwing in solos and extra pieces that hadn't existed on his last visit.2 The material might have been old, drawn from a catalogue of over 20 years, but there was nothing dusty in the execution. He worked, he sweated, and on both electric and acoustic, he had the night in his fingers. His version of Johnny Too Bad highlighted the direct connection between reggae and blues.

Martyn may be marketed as adult contemporary these days, but there's nothing bland or complacent about his music. It's fire, emotion and skill. But next time, don't read about it, go and see for yourself.

The Invisible Orchestra, opening, were unfortunately audible and frequently off-key. They should remember that silence is golden.


1 Probably a typo, the concert was listed for March 5th.
2 Nickson is referring to the Backstage show of 16 September 1993.
Audience recordings have been spotted of Dealer, Big Muff, One Day Without You, Don't Want To Know, May You Never and Angeline.
This review was published in The Rocket #177, on page 8 (streetdate 16 March 1994).
The Rocket was a Seattle based magazine that lived from 1979 to 2000. Charles Cross was helpful in tracking down this material.