The Ferry, Glasgow
Phew, what a scorcher. Not the music. John Martyn doesn't scorch much, being more disposed towards light and mellow grooves - way too light and mellow for the inattentive blethers who, with the Ferry's grow-your-own tomatoes atmosphere, made this latest installment of Martynwatch unusually hard work. Normally, I can consume Martyn to, well, a band playing. Sometimes here, particularly early on, I could hardly hear the band for the chat.
With concentrated resolve, however, I ascertained that the current troupe, comprising mainly long-serving and returning old associates, is capable of vintage Martyn grooving. This was particularly true when veteran Martyn bassist, Alan Thomson, made a cameo substitution during which a marvelously gluey Solid Air finally concentrated the audience's ears on the music.
Aside from refining his warming, feel-good groove, Martyn has developed increasingly over time as an interpretive singer across a wide range of songs. Dead Can Dance's How Fortunate The Man With None and Ben Harper's Excuse Me Mister, from his dark 1998 covers masterpiece The Church With One Bell, and Cry Me A River, from the recent Glasgow Walker, found him tackling the lyrics like a jazz saxophonist approaches a chord sequence, searching for new meaning, new timbres with consistently soulful success.
Few singers can also do the tough to tender -or vice versa- shift in such short order, or give it one with such self-effacing gallusness. Rock Salt and Nails' I'd Rather Go Blind-style rasp, the angry bark of Field Of Play (for which read battle) and a jumping Johnny Too Bad, on which his guitar did, indeed, scorch, ensured that for all the sweaty hardship, this face left bearing a grin.