I’m Backstage at the Green Hotel in Kinross again, this time with my lovely girlfriend Jo to check out the amazing guitarist Martin Barre. Like a lot of people, Jo is a big fan of the classic Jethro Tull album ‘Aqualung’ on which Barre featured prominently. So when she found out he was playing so close to home, she was pretty keen that we pop along. We arrive nice and early, grab a large glass of wine and a pint of shandy and settle in to have a good look at the memorabilia before Barre and his band take the stage.
Proceedings begin with a couple of classic Tull tracks. First up is ‘Minstrel in the Gallery’, from the album of the same name. It has an epic, extended instrumental that allows the band to really flex their muscles and show us what they're capable of. Barre is having a whale of a time, soloing like a fiend, cajoling squealing harmonics from his trusty PRS guitar. Barre is having a whale of a time, soloing like a fiend, cajoling squealing harmonics from his trusty PRS guitar. Alan Thomson is also particularly impressive on his five string bass, playing beautiful chords as well as buoying up the melody at certain points. When the vocals finally begin, guitarist and singer Dan Crisp does a great job of channeling Martins old band mate Ian Anderson, he even has the accent spot on. Second track ‘Steel Monkey’ is equally stellar with a great groove courtesy of a funky, constantly evolving beat from big hitting drummer Derby Todd.
Barre and his band bring some hard rocking blues with the classic ‘Steal Your Heart Away’, it’s a frenetic, exhausting performance, with a great vocal from Crisp and Barre’s guitar singing and sustaining for all it’s worth. There's also some revealing banter from an avuncular Martin regarding his phobia of William Wallace and the friendliness of the locals he encountered when he took a stroll down at Loch Leven. “Everyone came up to me and said ‘hello’, ‘how are you?’ or ‘good morning’. It was very unnerving”. The banter leads into the first track from Barre’s solo career, the shuffling ‘Back to Steel’, which with it’s hard rocking guitars, catchy lead, and expertly executed solo is a little reminiscent of classic ZZ Top.
I’m just getting over a bad case of ‘Beatlemania’ that I contracted while on a weekend away to Liverpool a few weeks ago and it flares up again when the band strike up a radically different, and pretty damn heavy version of ‘Eleanor Rigby’, complete with tempo changes and a nifty little bass solo. The Fab Four theme continues with ‘I Want You So Bad (She’s so Heavy)’ which is equally awesome and features another bass solo. This is followed by a run of five classic Tull tracks, the highlight of which is the slightly bonkers ‘Sealion’ with it’s quirky, slightly discordant lead lines and it’s beguiling lyrics: “You bark ever-so-slightly at the trainer's gun, with your whiskers melting in the noon-day sun.”
Next Barre straps on a mandolin for the legendary Robert Johnson, deal with the devil blues tale ‘Crossroads Blues’. This classic song is a blues staple and has been covered by everyone who is anyone including Elmore James and what seems like countless versions by Eric Clapton, however I’ve never heard it done like this! Martin Barre and his band re-imagine it as a minstrels tale, it’s got a folky, old worldly vibe with mandolin playing that alternates between choppy rhythm and fast picking and bass player Thomson adds some really pretty harmonies on the outro. I loved it!
Dan Crisp gives his best vocal performance of the evening on another Jethro Tull belter, the fabulous, bluesy ‘A New Day Yesterday’, spitting out some pretty nifty little lead guitar lines between vocals. The band has a ball, particularly the drummer Todd, you can tell the shows coming to an end soon and he’s leaving it all out on the stage. The band are so tight that you couldn’t fit a cigarette paper between them, as the tempo builds and we thrill to them jamming out. The band leave the stage but we know they will be back for a well earned encore.
Martin and the band come back to the stage following rapturous applause from the appreciative Kinross crowd to play the first track they’ve done from ‘Aqualung’, the rousing ‘Locomotive Breath’. The Jethro Tull original, like so much of their material, featured Ian Anderson’s flute front and centre but this arrangement with it’s percussive rhythm playing and dual lead parts from Barre and Crisp really holds its own and Thomson provides yet another amazing bass line. The last song of the evening is ‘Aqualung’ itself and it’s got an amazing lead part from Barre that traces Crisps vocal. It really is a magical song with some psychedelic lyrics that would give Syd Barrett at the height of his powers a run for his money. “Feeling like a dead duck spitting out pieces of his broken luck, oh, Aqualung.” It’s a great ending to another great evening of music Backstage at The Green Hotel.
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