The Lowry, Salford
Having seen John at the same venue every year since he returned to performing after losing his lower leg, I have become accustomed to him looking a little larger each time. Having seen him on his previous tour (only 8 months prior to this one), I was shocked by how much weight he had gained in such a short time. That he is now wheeled on stage is understandable, but is in sharp contrast his 2004 appearance, when he strutted on stage steadied by an enormous shepherd’s crook, almost as an act of defiance.
The show started uneventfully; a mumbled ‘Cooltide’, followed by ‘Couldn’t Love You More’ which achingly exposed just how his once effortlessly octave-jumping voice has deteriorated. In previous years I would have welcomed the reappearance of ‘Lookin’ On’, but not this time. It lacked any real deftness of touch.
John mumbled something about ‘being required to play the whole of Solid Air’ – in a manner which suggested he rather begrudged having to do so. That said, there were some truly wonderful moments. ‘Over The Hill’, accompanied solely by Alan Thomson on mandolin was just lovely. Too often however, John was propped up by his (magnificent) band. Does the World’s greatest acoustic guitar player really need a band accompaniment, when playing ‘May You Never’?
‘Well that’s that out of the way’ he said, somewhat dismissively at the end of the Solid Air section. An angry ‘Rock Salt and Nails’ followed by an uninspired ‘Just Let Me Love You Tonight’ ended the gig.
Not for the first time, I thought back to first seeing him on the Glorious Fool tour, rake thin, elegantly suited, signing and playing like no one else.
Not for the first time I reflected on how John’s physical condition is now affecting his ability to perform.
Not for the first time, I fear I may have witnessed my last performance by the great John Martyn.