After interviewing Martin Barre for Parklife DC last week, I was eager to see the former Jethro Tull guitarist and his band perform. Sunday night at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, Virginia, I had the opportunity to see the musician responsible for so many of Tull’s classic rock guitar riffs, solos, and songs.
The Martin Barre Band is in the midst of an extended tour in support of Roads Less Travelled, his just-released eighth solo album, continuing through the U.S. and Europe well into 2019. Anticipating a show featuring new tunes from the album, I was also looking forward to a healthy selection of Tull songs to fill out the evening’s set list. Mr. Barre did not disappoint.
Having been Jethro Tull’s guitarist for 43 years (1969-2012) may explain Barre’s fan demographic (yours truly included)… but we won’t go there. Instead, the small but enthusiastic crowd showed no signs of age, roaring its approval with each song from the moment Martin and band walked onstage.
The opener, “Steel Monkey,” from the Tull album, Crest of a Knave (which won a Grammy in 1989), featured Barre’s guitar expertise from the get-go. “Hymn 43,” from 1971’s Aqualung and one of my personal favorites, followed.
Stream Roads Less Travelled by Martin Barre on Spotify:
At this point, I really noticed Dan Crisp’s (vocals, guitars) singing. One of the pitfalls of performing songs one associates with other singers (like Daltrey, Plant or, in this case, Ian Anderson) is running the risk of trying to recreate, or worse, impersonate the original and falling far short. Dan’s vocals, however, were strong and sure, bringing a sense of recognition to the older Tull songs while staking out his own musical territory on the newer Barre-penned tunes.
Indeed, as Martin had previously pointed out to me, “I wrote the music, recorded the demos and worked out the songs before I bought them to the band. Once we got to the studio, I trusted the other musicians to work out the melodies, drums, vocals, and lyrics.”
The band was rounded out by bassist Alan Thompson and drummer Darby Todd, who provided a rock solid rhythm section for Martin and Dan to trade guitar licks and power chords. The evening’s set list was a showcase for the virtuosity of the players. Highlights of the evening included the straight-ahead rocker “(This is My) Driving Song,” “Hunting Girl,” with its intricate time changes and complex chording patterns, and the timeless Beatles cover, “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).”
But it was the show closer “Teacher” from 1970’s Benefit that took my breath away, with its syncopated guitar and drums verses that segue into a killer ascending guitar riff after the chorus. The encores featured three classic Tull songs including the song for which we all were waiting, “Aqualung.”
The Martin Barre Band set list for Sunday night:
Steel Monkey (Jethro Tull)
Hymn 43 (Jethro Tull)
Back to Steel
Back to the Family (Jethro Tull)
Love Story (Jethro Tull)
(This is My) Driving Song
Peace and Quiet
For a Thousand Mothers (Jethro Tull)
Nothing to Say (Jethro Tull)
Nothing Is Easy (Jethro Tull)
Hunting Girl (Jethro Tull)
Minstrel in the Gallery (Jethro Tull)
My Sunday Feeling (Jethro Tull)
I Want You (She’s So Heavy) (The Beatles)
Sealion (Jethro Tull)
Pibroch (Cap in Hand) (Jethro Tull)
Out of Time
A Song for Jeffrey (Jethro Tull)
Moment of Madness
Teacher (Jethro Tull)
A New Day Yesterday (Jethro Tull)
Aqualung (Jethro Tull)
Locomotive Breath (Jethro Tull)
Like a fine wine, Tull’s songs have aged exceedingly well, while Martin Barre’s new songs provided fresh musical palate cleansers. Indeed, the night’s show was a reminder that you’re never too old to rock and roll.
2019 is the 50th anniversary of Jethro Tull. Martin plans a series of shows dedicated to performing songs from his former band’s extensive catalog. Although he’ll be touring with his own band, he said, “I’ll have special guests, former members of Tull, at shows throughout the tour.” For information on the “Stand Up America: Celebrate 50 Years of Jethro Tull” tour, as well as upcoming Martin Barre Band dates in 2018, please visit his website.
Here are some pictures of the Martin Barre band performing at Jammin’ Java on Oct. 14, 2018. All photos copyright and courtesy of Mark Caicedo.