Martyn Joseph Solo Show – Hitchin Folk Club – 12 June 2011 – Review

How do I articulate adequately the magnificence that was Martyn Joseph at Hitchin,well in a nutshell, it was a vintage show to top them all ! ( until the next one that is ) and I keep asking myself how does he keep raising the bar every tour. I have seen Martyn goodness knows how many times over the years and have seen him at Hitchin at least 5 times before and each time I say this is the best EVER , Well this is no exception , well, it is , ..oh you know what I mean. It was breathtaking. Hitchin Folk Club  is a special place , run by two of the best and most passionate promoters, Keiron and Maureen Jones for over 40 years and it is held in a beautiful venue at the Sun Inn in the centre of the town ; they didn’t win best Folk club in the BBC Radio 2 awards for nothing ,and any show from any artist is memorable …

Check out their program for the year

Every year Martyns  sell out shows are greeted with the same rabid anticipation by a busting Sun Inn crowd, this partly due to the air of a big family party marking end of Hitchins season before the break for summer . The atmosphere can be cut with a knife as it nears 8pm and  there’s that momentary pause and instant hush when Keiron steps up on stage  because you know what is next . Actually, this year we nearly peaked too soon before that when Nikki got on stage to put MJs set list on the floor,  there was a collective straightening of backs and an intake of breath, but it was a false alarm and everyone exhaled. Then a few minutes later  Keiron was up , there is no big intro ,lets face it , who needs it, we know who we are seeing , this is our living  room after all , or seems like. He looks up again and  grins and just gives quick welcome to the main man and the room explodes in cheers! The momentum from the weeks band shows was evident from the start  and that didn’t ease up all night , I mean sparks were flying from his guitar and voice, he wasn’t even too worried about the mic that had a mind of it’s own which kept twisting slightly and ever so gently , he was having a great time and it was infectious and just magical to see!

The whole show was exquisitely pitched ,and the mix of songs were perfect .There was a great freedom to the night and if truth be told everyone in there would have been happy if we were locked in and he carried on to sun up , well everyone sat in rapt attention of the magician on stage , I don’t know if it would have gone down well with the people trying to sleep in the hotel plus Martyn would have been on his knees . There were so many highlights  and too many to mention them all , he had us rocking , ranting , singing  and in emotional pieces , there was some great Funky stuff on Invisible Angel , jaw dropping virtuoso guitar playing on an increasingly battered but beautifully sounding Lowden on so many other songs. The biggest  highlight was the new song ;which is another of Martyns masterpieces I reckon , Still Alot Of Love (?) The performance Sunday night was incredible . Sometimes with a new song you struggle to hang on lines , you try and grasp that fleeting sense of something special as it happens but you can’t quite remember what it is about it  but you know it was very powerful , then other times as the other night they hit you directly and so hard that you know you will wake up the next morning and remember them, well this was instantly memorable. The first line is  something like  ‘Light cracks the sky and your kiss breaks my fall’  , it’s just stunning.  It is a beautiful empowering, uplifting  but reflective song, and the icing on it last night was the singing, we were carrying the chorus,150+ people in full voice, which was  just beautiful itself, then on top of that wave of massed voices, Martyn just soared above us, he is really taking his voice into different zones of his range these days and its  just …WOW !

During the interval several notes were left on the stage for requests as well as a couple he had received earlier , and this lead to one of the best mini set of songs I have heard. Seahorse , was lovely , gently coaxing us onto this rollercoaster of Nemesis proportions , Seahorse has that breath  of fresh air about it , with it’s gorgeous bell like guitar and incredibly calming quality. Then he hits us with Have an Angel Walk with Her, always a favourite  live , he was only going to do a couple of verses but ended up playing the whole song. THEN Kindness, now this song for me is still one of his finest ever and it’s been a long time, or seems a long time since I have heard it live so it was a huge treat and it’s lost none of its potency since he first played it 4 years ago…the whispered lines and those opening chords ……..brilliant !

So there we are, stranded  on the top of this emotional tower, Whats next ….?!! it’s  One of Us,  of course the Hitchin Choir sung it like we meant it,  the sound thundering  round the room, it was explosive. But then came something just beyond words, he picked the Fender Strat up, and my brain was convinced for a couple of seconds it was going to be Kiss the world Beautiful , he was picking similar phrases, and even when he started singing I always thought a man should have a dream, to dig himself out ….  I was still dazed enough not to realise it was People Crazy as Me, it was so passionate and  he was so intense. One memorable snapshot moment in the song was when  he looked round the room when he sang the line People Crazy As Me with a questioning look at us all , then getting the response that we are all totally there alongside him in that regard in a heartbeat, this big flash of a smile . It finally got to me  when he got to the line , “Don’t think we’re supposed to understand” , I think someone dumped a bucket of ice water over me . He got to the end , and was still playing around with the chords  , was he finished ?!! , Heck no, People Crazy effortlessly merged into  Kiss the World Beautiful  with all the loops and gorgeous tones…. It doesn’t come better than that very often ! He got us rocking again with Lonely like America after telling us  his tale of the headphones in the bin in the park and his mobile phone left with the chemist down the road from  the American Embassy  when he went to get his US Visa ……funny story and still bewildering ! 🙂

He finished with the loveliest On My Way wandering as much as he could through the packed room, leaving to cheers and stamping feet. Stepping back on stage for an encore he was greeted with more calls for requests, half his back catalogue I think , one deep  booming voice from the back yelled, Liberal backslider which made  us laugh , But He wanted to finish with Brothers in Exile, and the most delicate intro of How Great Thou Art, which was just  a perfect  way to end a perfect Evening. The last note faded and he left to a standing ovation ! It was a truly extraordinary night and one that won’t be forgotten in a hurry! Trish Roberts

Set list

No Peace

You’re the Moment

Always Will be

So Many Lies

Working Mother

Good In Me is Dead

Invisible Angel

Wake Me Up

New song Still alot of Love (?)


Dic Penderyn

Cardiff Bay

There’s Always Maybe



Have an Angel


One of us

People Crazy as Me/Kiss the world Beautiful

Lonely Like America

On My Way


Brothers In Exile.

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