John Martyn, Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow
Star rating * * *
Was it just me or was there something especially rejuvenated about John Martyn as he played Jelly Roll Blues, having completed the advertised revisiting of his classic Grace & Danger LP? It was as if, having been back in a dark time of divorce and general derangement, he wanted to get the hell out of Dodge, with an acoustic guitar serving as his horse and a lothario's recklessness his urgent destination.
Sitting Buddha-like in his now-familiar wheelchair, Martyn jokes about the experiences that fed Grace & Danger with the voice and demeanour of a Gibson Les Paul-toting pantomime barfly. But they certainly inspired some of his best songwriting, and if the band arrangements presented here, complete with ghostly saxophone, tended to smooth out much of the originals' character and personality, Martyn's singing, for all his jazz crooner's liberties with melody and phrasing, generally stayed true to the message.
He may no longer have quite the energy and rogue-ishness to recreate Johnny Too Bad, which was, with its maddening, twinkly keyboard figure, a pale shadow of its rootin'-tootin' former self. But the desire for rapprochement and plain ain't-too-proud-to-beg forlornness respectively of Hurt In Your Heart and Baby Please Come Home sounded like a man with total emotional recall.
Small wonder, then, that he set about his acoustic spot with such cathartic vigour, before becoming the guitar-less frontman for, first, the tough -Rock Salt and Nails- and then the tender, Never Let Me Go, which his audience, reluctantly, disobeyed.