The Ocean, London

As an expat and competition winner for the gig at the Shepherds Bush Empire on Sunday, I had come over to London from Paris on the Saturday afternoon, so I could catch both The Ocean Hackney and Shepherds Bush Empire shows. I used to live in Hackney in the mid 80’s, so I was keen to see this new venue opposite the old Hackney Empire. The Ocean is a modern entertainment and arts centre with 3 music venues in the one building. I guess John Martyn and Danny Thompson were in the bigger of the three. The stage setting was excellent, if a bit high off the floor and the psychedelic backdrop provided a perfect environment for the music that was to come. Having said that the venue was a bit too ‘new labour’ for me; squeaky clean with loads of floorspace, which had been filled with large round tables for the audience to freely choose from. The sound, while clear, lacked density and was a bit lost in the large open space. Strangely, this sterile atmosphere seemed to produce a polished but slightly passionless performance from John Martyn with little interaction between him and the audience. I think he was also lower in the mix compared to Danny Thompson (who was superb on the night), which may have contributed to this feeling. However, this was not a bad gig by any means, just a bit uneventful for a John Martyn gig!!, especially after my last at experience at Vicar Street Dublin earlier this year. As already noted in the other reviews, the set was almost entirely from the 70s albums (Bless the Weather, Solid Air, Inside Out, One World and Sundays Child) and it was a real treat to see the two play these old songs; you really felt the vibe between them…wonderful stuff and what a sound from just two people!!
Nigel Wilkie