Leeds Irish Centre

‘I’ve been playing here for thirty years’, announced John Martyn, wiping away a tear. One can see why. The Irish Centre Leeds is the perfect setting for John Martyn’s music. The venue is intimate, soon smoke filled (perhaps as John noted with a fair bit of weed), and with several bars there is none of the lengthy queuing that mars many a concert experience. To be able to enjoy a pint with the music is heaven indeed. The crowd was also the most enthusiastic that I have been among for quite a while. It was a shame, therefore, that John did not reward them with an encore. ‘He must have been tired’, noted one sympathetic fan. Or perhaps he was annoyed by the constant need to tune and retune guitars and technology that seemed to fail for most of the night. ‘I hate computers’, he said, ‘along with those little things that people hold to their ears. “I’m leaving the shops now love”, yeah fuck off!’. The set was split as in other gigs, but there was none of the warm-up feel to the first set, as most other reviews have noted. In fact, the band was in top form from the opening ‘Glorious Fool’ to the rip-roaring version of ‘Rock, Salt & Nails’.

The second set was once again transformed by John’s solo versions of ‘Easy Blues’ and ‘May You Never’. ‘You know what we have come for’, came a shout from the crowd, in anticipation of ‘May You Never’. The perennial favourite is still fresh but the subsequent ‘My Creator’ shows that the new music is every bit as strong if not stronger than the old. Indeed with an excellent array of songs in On the Cobbles it would be interesting to discover why John chose ‘My Creator’ as the only song to feature from the latest album. This was a very special gig. How tempting it is to drop everything and rush to Liverpool for the tour’s closing show!

Ian Thatcher