Monday, 8 December 2014

Live in 2014: Martyn Joseph at Neath Little Theatre, Saturday 6th December 2014

Neath Little Theatre pulled off a coup on Saturday night as it played host to Welsh singer/songwriter Martyn Joseph.
We knew we were in for something special when we saw the Welsh flag on his mike stand and guitar case. One of Wales' best and most repected singer/songwriter had come back to Wales to play.

From the opening song, Dic Penderyn, we were treated to a very special performance.
Martyn has always been a proud Welshman and now was his chance to prove it. And he did, with aplomb.

Martyn stated that it had taken him 32 years to play in Neath and he set about making up for lost time.

With Proud Valley Boy again exploring Welsh history, Martyn covered most of his career with an exciting set of songs that highlighted his excellent lyrical and melodic skills.

With gorgeous ballads like Seahorse and more political songs like 5 Sisters, Martyn proved just what a skillful performer he really is. If you've tread the boards for over 30 years then you're going to learn something about how to entertain an audience.

His sense of humour shone throughout the performance and he related to his Welsh audience as only a Welshman can. Who else could talk about Max Boyce's more emotional lyrics?

Crowd pleasers like Lonely In America were interspersed with Martyn's more reflective songs.

His humour came to the fore when he stopped the show as he spotted some latecomers entering the theatre and decided to do a quick recap of the songs he's already played to rapturous applause.

Martyn then took some time to talk about his new charitable concept called Let Yourself Trust.
Here is a short film by Martyn explaining it.

So Many Lies ended the first half of the show after an hour on stage.

His award winning song, There's Always Maybe announced his return to the stage and his song Cardiff Bay will always be a winner at a Welsh gig - even if it is this near Swansea!

Martyn also previewed several new songs and one about Bobby Kennedy called unsurprisingly Bobby showed that he still has the skill to write a great story song, even with a political edge. And Liberal Backslider encouraged some good Welsh audience participation in the singing department.

During the next song, I'm On My Way, Martyn decided he would like to get a little closer to his audience and came into the theatre - stood on a couple of seats and led some audience singing yet again, now that we'd been sufficiently warmed up.

Martyn has produced an album called Tyres Rushing by in the Rain, which is a collection of Bruce Springsteen covers - it's a splendid record and Martyn took the opportunity of playing a couple of songs from the album, the shimmering The Ghost Of Tom Joad & Blood Brothers.

If you've heard Springsteen's Nebraska, the songs on the album are very much in this style and worth getting.

It's the measure of a performer as how they deal with the unexpected. During the beautiful Luxury Of Despair, in which Martyn sings about his experiences in the Middle East, a vital lower e string broke on Martyn's guitar. He stopped the performance, restrung the guitar and carried on to loud applause. 

It didn't take away from the power of the song and was quickly followed by Still A Lot Of Love Around Here which talks about the power of good in the world. An excellent choice of closing song.

But then there was the encore.

During Kiss The world Beautiful, Martyn made up lyrics about his journey from Cardiff to Neath. A lovely local touch which rounded off a sensational performance.
He certainly cemented his reputation as one of Wales' most consistent and quality assured songwriters.

I hope he doesn't leave it 32 years to return and judging by the reception he generated, I don't think we'll have to wait long before Neath Little Theatre sees him again.

Twitter - @martyn_joseph 

1 comment:

  1. Been meaning to comment on this for days...

    Good stuff... Finally, some recognition for your compatriot!!! First time i've seen you make mention of Martyn, who is indeed a national treasure. Beginning to think you didn't like him! TJ affectionately calls him a "meat & potatoes songwriter". And he can get a bit preachy sometimes. I also must say his studio album quality has kinda slumped over the past few years, but he's a superb entertainer, and always puts on a great show as you've noted in your fine review. When we did the countdown of our Top 125 Albums Of All Time over at "Cathedrals of Sound" blogsite, I actually chose one of MJ's as my #9 favorite album ever. I've told my "Why I like Martyn Joseph" story a few too many times, but in case you haven't heard it Nick, I'll cut/paste and punish you with yet another reminiscence of my first MJ gig, contained here in my COS posting...


    - Yup, that really is the title. There are so many factors influencing this selection. Some of it comes down to the pleasant results of discovering his debut "Being There" (1993) in a record store used bin. Blind purchases that pay off are always special, aren't they? Anyway, the record was a really good, highly polished pop/folk music; an album I cherished because of it's smart, literate songs and of course it's obscurity. I shared it with my pal Eric, who loved the it too. Several years passed...

    Then about 10 years ago, I noticed in the paper that 'Martyn Joseph' was playing a gig in Toronto, first time ever in Canada. It was mid-winter... depressed and bored, I asked Eric if he wanted to check out this Welsh folksinger guy. We wound up driving 30 miles through a blizzard, temps of -30'C to find this little folk club, which was freezing inside; we had our snow-parkas on! After a harrowing cab ride from his hotel, MJ showed up to a crowd of 12 people, most completely unfamiliar with his music... We didn't expect much, thought he'd be miserable with the weather and the empty seats. No way! Martyn warmed up the place immediately, played and spoke with passion, energy, humility & goofinesss. He played his heart out for 2 1/2 hours, and I can safely say that all 12 of us were blown away, moved to tears with many a song. He's a wonderful storyteller, hilarious, witty and empathetic as well as a masterful guitarist.

    After the show he sat down with a few of us and we chatted like family. Not often an artist gets to know the names and backgrounds of the entire audience! Talk about intimate and interactive! Simply an unforgettable experience. Of course, positive word-of-mouth travels fast, and MJ now returns to TO yearly to SRO crowds of 300+... however he still greets & chats with the flock as they leave, like a vicar after mass. A charming, kind and talented Welshman is Martyn Joseph.

    Anyway, all of this background will hopefully explain this high placement of what might seem a journeyman folk-singer. I admit to partiality because of the personal interaction element, but I sincerely do love the music, and particularly this album. There's another long story relating to another MJ concert and chat linked to WIWTBMH that I'll spare you details on, except to say each song has a marvellous story behind it... I've chosen this one because there are no songs about political/social lament and injustice, which is certainly a component of some of his work. This one deals strictly with faith/doubt & human relationships; poetic & melodic and there isn't a bum track on it...