Martin Barre: Live in NY

Jeff Tamarkin on February 12, 2020

From their second album, 1969’s Stand Up, through their split in 2012, Martin Barre was Jethro Tull’s lead guitarist, as much a signature of the band’s sound as Ian Anderson’s voice and flute. Whether playing hard rock or a classically inspired acoustic-based piece, Barre was integral, a masterful player who gave shape and texture to Anderson’s songwriting. Barre veered off into solo work on a number of occasions during the band’s long run, but over the past several years has been out there serving as a true frontman, which brought him, along with his trio, to Daryl’s House in Pawling, N.Y., where this set was recorded in front of an audience. The package includes two CDs and a DVD, and the setlist finds Barre and company alternating between Tull classics, a handful from Barre’s solo releases and a few covers, notably “Eleanor Rigby,” included previously on his 2015 Back to Steel album. Live in NY begins with “Hammer,” a burly rocker that finds the guitarist exercising his considerable chops from the get-go, but it’s those cornerstone Tull tunes that make it a keeper, and there are plenty here. The earlier tunes, including “A New Day Yesterday” and “A Song for Jeffrey,” are reminders of how original that band was; only “Fat Man” fails, its subtle, exotic mystery replaced here by a thudding beat and generic arrangement. Second guitarist Dan Crisp handles vocals throughout, not entirely dissimilar to Anderson in his presentation but lacking the charisma that marked the best of Tull. It’s good to hear those songs again, even if there’s simply no comparison to what Barre accomplished in all of those years helping to make Jethro Tull what they were.