Concert Review: Martin Barre Band @ The Strand Theatre, 6/23/2023

HUDSON FALLS – Some artists have a hard time taking their hits and making them fresh not even five years after release, let alone five decades. For Martin Barre, famed and renowned guitarist for Jethro Tull, keeping things fresh is no problem. Celebrating a brief history of the famous prog-rock outfit, Barre and his band took the audience of The Strand Theatre in Hudson Falls on June 23rd through an exploration of near-genius level arrangement and virtuosic performances.

As the night opened with ethereal sounds, Barre soon took to his acoustic guitar, performing an interlude that led into a re-imagined “Some Day the Sun Won’t Shine for You.” Dan Crisp quickly demonstrated on this song – and all others performed that night – his ability to deliver a strong lead vocal that not only honored the source material but contained bits of his own nuances, as well.

It’s sometimes overlooked that Tull had a guitarist, Mick Abrahams, prior to Barre joining, but he made sure to make clear homage to this fact, covering material from the band’s first album, This Was. An unexpected foray into the blistering blues-rock number “Cat’s Squirrel” from that record, this welcomed tip-of-the-hat was followed by “Serenade to a Cuckoo.” For those in attendance getting a chance to hear Barre’s own flute abilities, this night was quickly turning out to be a massive musical treat. Warning the audience about a quarter way in that ‘anything could happen,” Barre soon lived up to his allusion.

There were plentiful examples of unique arrangements on some of the classic Tull songs, but perhaps a stand-out moment was Barre’s interpretation of “Bourree,” originally by Bach – and performed initially on Tull’s Stand Up. However, this time the piece was played on acoustic guitars before meandering into “Sossity, You’re a Woman,” navigating back to the former tune’s bass solo and leading into “Back to the Family.” This arrangement alone would impress even the laziest of Tull fans, and for sure it’s no wonder that everyone was blown away by this point. The captivating solos of Barre and Terl Bryant, drummer, on “Back to the Family” made the amazing passage that much better.

Pick up a figurative rock and throw it at the night, and you’ll hit a song that has an interesting arrangement. From the innovative “My God” interpretation, featuring a wonderful re-write of the acoustic guitar part now being played on bass and electric guitar, to the exquisite cobbing together of select parts from the monumental Thick as a Brick record, the band couldn’t be beaten. Delivering a sonic treasure hunt throughout the night, Martin was just getting started by the end of the first set.

Making a point to honor the folk era of the band during the late 1970s and early 1980s, Barre began the second set with “Acres Wild” and “Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow” from Heavy Horses and The Broadsword and the Beast, respectively. It was nice to hear selections from Barre’s favorite Tull record, Under Wraps, as the band flew headfirst into “Under Wraps #1 and #2.” There was a brief moment where Martin showcased his slide guitar abilities – a skill unto itself – with the piece “Hard Times,” which was a welcomed change of pace for this concertgoer. Circling back to a previous record, Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll, Too Young to Die, near the end of the night, Barre and company displayed a fresh take on the title track, spicing up the original guitar harmonies that made this track so memorable to begin with.

There’s a certain level of “no-nonsense levity” with Barre, a playful contradiction that revealed itself sparingly throughout the night, but perhaps most prominently when he declared that he was going to save the audience the trouble, plunging straight forward into encores. Closing the night out with a re-arranged “Locomotive Breath,” utilizing a similar instrumentation to that of the aforementioned “My God,” and a rollicking take on “Teacher,” the show’s conclusion was just as the whole night had been: sublime. 

A piece that tied the whole night together was the sparse video production that took place behind the band, adding ambiance and scenery behind certain songs while giving insight into other Jethro Tull’s catalog from Martin’s perspective. The thundering bass performed by Alan Thomson, with the relentless groove provided by Terl Bryant on drums, mixed with the power of Dan Crisp’s vocals and occasional lead guitar parts, were flawlessly capped by Barre, with his diligent, deliberate, and deftly performed guitar lines – lines that floated in, around, under and above the mix through the entire night – Martin and his band delivered a night of rock and roll that will not soon be forgotten.

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