Review and Photos by Lou Montesano
According to Martin Barre, Jimmy Page walked into the studio during the recording of the “Aqualung” guitar solo and gave the equivalent of a thumbs up. Distracted, Barre considered acknowledging Page’s approval, but decided instead simply to continue playing, creating what has been included on many lists of the greatest guitar solos of all time.
Appearing at New York’s Iridium Jazz Club, Barre filled the house with Jethro Tull loyalists eager to hear the riffs that still rock as hard today as they did nearly 50 years ago. So-called Prog Rock has its detractors, but Barre’s guitar, especially on early albums like Stand Up and Benefit in addition to Aqualung, gave Tull its edge before Ian Anderson fully embraced his Minstrel in the Gallery alter-ego.
The original members of Jethro Tull have all gone their separate ways but remain friendly. Barre has released several albums of original material over the past decade, including his latest, Back to Steel. His current band features Alan Thomson on bass and Dave Schoepke on drums. Handling vocals is second guitarist Dan Crisp, who pays homage to Ian Anderson’s distinctive voice but wisely steers clear of outright tribute.
On the first of his two-night stand at Iridium, Barre mixed old and new along with a few borrowed tunes. Admitting to a late-in-life admiration of the Beatles, he performed guitar-driven takes of “Eleanor Rigby” and “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).” He also told of how hearing Robert Plant’s reinvention of “Spoonful” with the exotic instrumentation of the Sensational Space Shifters inspired him to do something similar with a mandolin jam of “Crossroads.”
From Back to Steel, he sampled “I’m a Bad Man” and an electrified version of “Skating Away” in addition to the title track, but it was the Tull classics — “Song for Jeffrey,” “Teacher” and “Aqualung”— that brought the room to its feet. Iridium is one New York’s finest clubs, comfortable and intimate, with pristine sound perfect for jazz, rock or cabaret. We were glad to see a nearly sold-out house for two nights of Martin Barre, proving no one’s ever too old to rock ‘n’ roll. We hope he’ll be back soon.