Martyn Joseph – The Met, Bury – 20th January 2023
Good to see The Met packed out yet again after last weekend’s Prog Rock extravaganza with IQ.
Martyn Joseph arrives in town with the strength of the 1960 album behind him. The acoustic version (with a bonus DVD) is on sale at the merch desk and it’s the solo acoustic version of MJ that’s once again to entertain the Bury MH devotees who flit between The Met and the Band On The Wall when he makes it into the metropolis. A musician almost forever on tour so it seems; the tour shirt is packed with so many locations and venues from 2021-23 on the reverse that it extends to three columns. Small font too!
Here Come The Young, When We Get Through This and Born Too Late provide the introduction with a flurry of recent ‘hits’ from a canon (canyon even) that’s now deep and wide enough for Martyn to make the new fans feel at home and satisfy those who’ve been on the journey. He refers to forty years of work and as we shall see in due course, his work is still relevant and topical, perhaps even more so he becomes the man to whom people turn in these trying times.
“I once had a top forty hit,” he remenisces. “I never play it…but I’ll play it tonight,” he adds before Dolphins Make Me Cry in the second half. Ah yes, those floppy fringe days when he was positioned in the same ball park as Bryan Adams and funnily enough a record that nestles in a small box of 7″ singles that occasionally gets wheeled out of the cupboard.
Contradictions has him also declaring how there aren’t many songs that he wrote in the Eighties that he’d sing now. Lacking the jazzy brass and twangy guitar of the original it’s right at home in 2023. The optimism of This Glass (“is half full“) has an audience that proves to be in fine voice singing along with some force – as they will do again on On My Way and I Searched For You – fully engaged in the spirit that Martyn fosters.
“This song isn’t so hopeful,” is the simple preamble to I’ll Take You Out. The Ukraine flag colours provide a backdrop of hope to a song that’s unlike most in that forty year archive of songs. The fact makes it even more chilling; a song maybe Martyn just had to write; a song that’s not in his nature but maybe as important as any song in that archive. As is, thankfully Cardiff Bay where his heart may well lie before a reminder of the incredible fundraising work done by his Let Yourself Trust – now in its ninth year and with some recent organisations who’ve benfitet din the audience tonight.
Under Every Smile finds him donning the twelve string and proving that twice as many strings holds no barriers for his finger picking and it shifts into an uplifting instrumental /chorus reprise where the stomp pad earns its keep. “Under every smile, behind every tear, summon up the courage, chase down the fear” he sings once more after he’s worked those tweleve strings and tested his fingers and the whole song and message rings out loud and clear.
But any Matyn Joseph experience is about connection. Often from those deeply personal subjects and events from his own story which relate to us in the audience. It finds him opening up on childhood memories on Felt So Much where he talks of his recently departed Dad and the strength of the memories which have stayed with him. It precedes the ‘commission set’ where we learn of his contribution to the 21st Century Folk project with the song Albert’s Place and his other commission which is the uplifting song for the NHS and the glorious vision of Nye Bevan and where we all join in again to celebrate the purpose of power.
As we count down the set, there’s a breathtakingly fragile There Is A Field that last touched us back in August ’22 in that sun soaked field in Cropredy. Released from the 1960 version into a poignant vision of what may lie beyond. A song of hope. A song that gives us courage to believe that what lies beyond is not to be feared. A tough job at Crop, but he may well have given an alternative to meeting on the ledge.
“The heart is a mystery,” he sings at the start of I Searched For You as the end of the set looms. Martyn Joseph has done his job – the light has shone on all of us and touched over two hundred of them tonight.
Categories: Live Reviews