Sept. 19, 1982 is a date that stands out for me. I was a 14-year-old music fanatic, and one of my many obsessions was the British progressive-folk-rock ensemble Jethro Tull.
I'm well aware that professing love for Tull might earn one the derisive scorn of a certain demographic these days, but the band was considered hip when I was a kid. This would be my first Tull concert, and I’d slept out at the Glens Falls Civic Center to procure myself a ticket. (Mom and Dad, full disclosure: I wasn’t sleeping at my friend Eric’s house. I’m sorry! But… Tull!)
I greatly admired the compositional skills, sartorial humor, keen intelligence and biting wit of Tull leader Ian Anderson, but it was the band’s guitarist, Martin Barre, who kept me up late at night with the headphones on and the guitar on my lap, trying to figure out the riffs in “Hunting Girl” and “No Lullaby” without waking my parents, who were convinced I was losing my mind.
Barre was an idiosyncratic musician. He could handle admirably the rock-blues hybrid that his peers like Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton had perfected, but he could also play Celtic-based folk music like a true maestro, his phrasing was delightfully weird, and he favored a Hamer Sunburst, a guitar I lusted after. (I finally got my hands on one, 30 years later.) That night in Glens Falls, Barre arrived first on the stage, toting the coveted Hamer, and launched into one of my favorite riffs, the one heralding Tull’s “Something’s On the Move.”
I freaked. This might sound quaint now, but if you’d been there, and you were a 14-year-old Tull head, you’d totally get it.
Over the following decades, I saw the band every time it toured – with rotating lineups, all of which featured Barre. When Anderson went solo in 2011, and put the band on what appears to be a permanent hiatus, I assumed that I’d never see Barre perform again.
Barre had plans that didn’t include retirement. He released a steady stream of inventive solo albums, and then finally, in 2014, he assembled a band the sound of which thrilled him enough to succumb to “road fever.” Naturally, Tull material would form a significant portion of the group’s repertoire, but this would not be a “Barre plays the best of Tull” affair. He and his cohorts went for the deep cuts, the oft-overlooked gems, and reworked them in inventive ways, butting them up against gems from Barre’s solo albums, and surprising covers, ranging from Porcupine Tree to the Beatles, Bobby Parker to Gov’t Mule.
Thanks to You Tube, it became apparent that Barre and band were routinely killing it in small venues across the UK and, sporadically, the U.S. At long last, we’ll be afforded the opportunity to catch Barre in the most intimate Buffalo venue he’s ever played in some 40 years of touring. (Tull almost always included Buffalo on its U.S tour.) Barre and his band hit the stage at the Sportsmen’s Tavern on Thursday at 7 p.m.
Here are a few reasons you should consider this a must-see show.
Barre has a strong new album, and he’ll be playing a bunch of it.
“Back to Steel” should appeal to fans of heavier Tull material, and it offers Barre’s band – singer/guitarist Dan Crisp, drummer George Lindsay, bassist Alan Thompson – an opportunity to stretch out.
There will be Tull tunes a-plenty.
If you want to hear rarely played Tull tunes like “Minstrel in the Gallery,” “To Cry You A Song,” “Sea Lion,” “Love Story” and “Black Satin Dancer,” here’s your chance.
Barre gets behind the Mule.
The Barre Band has been offering an incendiary interpretation of Gov’t Mule’s mighty “Thorazine Shuffle” on this tour, normally as the first tune in what tends to be a lengthy encore.
“Crossroads” played on mandolin.
An awesome rendition of the Robert Johnson chestnut has been a consistent part of the set.
Barre has been including the early deep-cut “A Song for Jeffrey” on most nights.
Is this a coincidence? I highly doubt it.
Who: The Martin Barre Band
When: 7 p.m. Sept. 15 (No scheduled opener.)
Where: The Sportsmen’s Tavern, 326 Amherst St.
Tickets: $30 advance, $35 door; Showclix.com