Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow

There are no concessions to commercialism. No tour programmes or t-shirts. Walking into an empty foyer, there is scant evidence that a gig is about to happen. It is just as well that the ticket says ‘John Martyn’. Or perhaps this is an early indication that what matters about tonight is the music. Right enough this is not an event for those into elaborate stage shows. Eva Abraham is a good support. Her emotional songs are rendered in solo acoustic versions, although the cd that she sells in low key fashion out of a plastic bag in the interval shows that she can also play with a band.

When John appears the moment has a fitting sense of drama. At last, after the frustration of two cancelled tours, here is JOHN MARTYN. He enters to a huge roar. Back on the Red Clyde, we are treated to a wee reminder of his anti-Reagan/Bush I/ Bush II sentiments. Was Homeland Security watching? Expect trouble at the next border crossing into the US. The rest of the first set felt like something of a warm-up, for band and audience. The sublime ‘Carmine’ was played at three-quarter’s pace and intensity; ‘Looking On’ lacked a sense of menace; ‘Sweet Little Mystery’ was a trifle bland.

But hey, this performance, like football, was a game of two halves. Any half-time doubts were dispelled by a truly fantastically fabulous second-half performance. The audience came to life as ‘She’s a Lover’ melted into ‘Solid Air’. The tone and atmosphere of the gig was then taken to new heights as John played two songs solo acoustic. How the guitar rolled through ‘The Easy Blues’, a numbered punctuated with howls of joy from the floor. Now John was laughing, smiling, and actually having fun. Even ‘May You Never’ sounded fresh. It took the roof off. A returned band now moved into top gear. The only surprise was that an obviously entranced audience remained rooted to their seats. How it did so, especially during the infectious and eminently danceable ‘Big Muff’ and the encore ‘Johnny Too Bad’ is beyond me. Oh John, how could you have left us after the closing, incredibly moving version of ‘Never Let You Go’. We wanted you to ‘stay, stay, stay’.

The new album was largely noticeable by its absence, ‘My Creator’ notwithstanding. Can we have an ‘On the Cobbles’ tour soon please – my shouted cry for the title track seemed to throw John into confusion!

Ian Thatcher