Over the years, change has been the Incredible String Band's only constant. Its original followers might be disappointed with the present state of its music, which is no longer extreme in its occult imagery, less eccentric and idiosyncratic in its flow.
As evidenced on its opening night at the Troubadour, the ISB's style has broadened, and, by some standards, been slightly weakened by that process. But if one can manage to avoid comparisons to the past, one can't help being charmed by Mike Heron's marshmallowy but steel-spined love songs and haunted by Robin Williamson's primitive wails that evoke the pagan mysteries of ancient Britain.
One could complain that the band's now trying to touch too many bases, with a Scott Joplin piano rag here, a rock 'n' roll song there, bossa nova in between. But in the long run the ISB is as immune to such criticism as a performer at a gypsy campfire.
Second-billed John Martyn's lyrics are painlessly buried beneath his murmuring voice as his face is under a mop of hair, but his impressively fluent guitar playing is quite enough to create a telling atmosphere.
He's a masterful acoustic guitarist, the rough edges of his notes counterpointing their pure, milky centers. And when he funnels his amplified instrument through several fuzzing and echoing devices he's simply devastating, turning out an eerie mixture of primeval ebb and flow and futuristic fantasies in a long and stunning instrumental.
The show continues through Sunday.
— RICHARD CROMELIN
This review was printed in the Los Angeles Times of Friday, 6 April 1973.