Sunday, October 15, 2017

Martin Barre

It's been a bit of a weekend, and I mean that in a good way. I've been at shows of one type or another for the last three nights. Each deserves their due, so I'm going to post about them separately. And it all began this past Thursday night, when I attended a concert by Martin Barre at The Boulton Center in Bay Shore.

For anyone who might not be familiar with him, Barre was the longtime guitarist for one of my all-time favorite bands, Jethro Tull. He was with them for all but their first album, 1968's This Was, and their most recent album from earlier this year, The String Quartets, (which as I explained in my review of it in this very blog, was really a Jethro Tull album in name only.)

Barre was tremendously entertaining, performing with a 4-piece band that included himself plus vocalist/guitarist Dan Crisp, bass player/backup singer Alan Thomson and drummer Dave Schoepke. The band was excellent, as they worked their way through two sets and an encore that included a variety of Jethro Tull covers (some of them completely re-imagined), a selection from Barre's most recent solo album Back to Steel, a pair of Beatles covers and a few blues covers by artists such as Bobby Parker and Robert Johnson. The night was basically a mix of blues and progressive rock.

The night started with a few pieces of minor unpleasantness that were, happily, quickly resolved. The first is that the town of Bay Shore has decided to greedy it up by sucking as much money as they can from someone looking to frequent their businesses -- they've installed metered parking everywhere. As I drove up to the parking lot behind the Boulton Center, I was taken aback to see a group of ruffians congregating at the front of the lot. But when I got closer, I found it wasn't a bunch of hooligans at all, but a group of luckless diners and theater goers lined up up to enter their parking space numbers and their credit cards in one of those annoying newfangled meters. This sucked for them, although I was able to bypass it because at least the town had the decency not to number the handicapped spaces. I always wonder how much this kind of thing hurts the businesses in the area. I know that Port Jefferson did this a while back, and I go there about a quarter as much as I used to because of it.

Now, I've often said the Boulton Center might be my favorite place to see a show. However, when I got inside, I found that the ticket I'd purchased (I was flying solo for this show), that looked like it was on an open aisle on the seating chart, was, in fact, squashed up next to a solid wall on my right side. Once again all was well, though, because although the show was nearly a sell out, the theater was able to find me a free seat with more than enough room to breath by giving one of the seats they'd held for the band that wasn't going to be used. So once again, The Boulton Center proved itself among the friendliest of places. (Next time, I have to remember not to trust that seating chart).

I won't recount the entire show for you, but suffice it to say that it was varied and interesting setlist that included a number of obscure and seldom-performed Tull material along with the obligatory classics. (I've entered the full set list on at: ,
or you can view it as a list up on Sputnik Music at:

Some of the more interesting parts of the evening included covers of Tull songs such "Nothing to Say" from the Benefit, "Sealion" from the vastly underrated War Child LP, and "Love Story" from Living in the Past. However, my two favorite songs of the night were "Hunting Girl" from my favorite Tull album, Songs From the Wood (which ended the first set), and "Teacher" from Benefit, which ended the second. Unsurprisingly, the encore consisted of a pair of classics from Tull's Aqualung album, "Locomotive Breath" and "Aqualung" itself. I also enjoyed a very Tulled-ed up prog rock version of The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby". As for the Barre solo numbers and the classic blues songs, while I'm not the world's biggest blues fan, within the context of this performance, I enjoyed them a lot.

Barre himself was very funny. The stage basically had three mics set up, one for the lead singer, one for the bass player to sing backup, and one for Barre to talk between songs. He entertained us with little anecdotes, such as the confidential revelation that the next item on his playlist read, "Some Beatles shit," and regaled the blues fans with the tales of the legendary blues singer Ironing Board Sam ("He was a great player, but his singing could be a little flat"). One amusing note -- the lead singer was a tall, lean fellow who sounded a little like Ian Anderson, but he squints when he sings so he kind of looks like Robert DeNiro from Raging Bull singing Tull covers.

Anyway, it was a wonderful night of music. Next time Barre and his band come around, I'd definitely recommend that any Tull fan, prog rock fan or blues fan try to catch them.