Not Too Old To Rock ’N’ Roll

Longtime Jethro Tull guitarist Martin Barre has gained a reputation as one of the best in rock music. (Photo by Elayne Barre)

Martin Barre brings Jethro Tull show to Madison Theatre at Molloy College

Let’s get the cliché out of the way. Martin Barre does not cotton to the Jethro Tull classic about being too old to rock.

“I’m a healthy 75-year-old and I run five miles every other day,” he said in a recent interview from San Antonio, TX, before a tour date. “I’m planning to be around for a bit.”

Aside from lead singer, main songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ian Anderson, no one has been associated with the band as long or deeply as the guitarist, who joined in 1968. Anderson dissolved the group in 2011 and reformed it in 2019 without Barre. The two have led parallel bands in recent years, playing the vast catalogue in front of a fervent fan base.

Anderson recently unveiled the first Jethro Tull album of original material in two decades, the Zealot Gene.

Barre has also released a clutch of solo albums, cultivating a latent gift for songwriting. His latest CD is 50 Years of Jethro Tull (2019) with reworkings of the original songs.

Barre is highly respected among the “axe” fraternity, name dropped by numerous top players such as Carle Place’s Steve Vai and Joe Satriani, with Dire Strait’s Mark Knopfler calling Barre’s prowess “magical.”

According to his website, www.martinbarre.com, “His playing on the album Crest of a Knave earned him a Grammy award in 1989. Martin has worked with many other artists, including Paul McCartney, Phil Collins, Gary Moore, Joe Bonamassa and Chris Thompson, and has shared a stage with such legends as Jimi Hendrix, Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.”

Regarding Hendrix, he said, “We toured a lot with him in ’69.”

“What was he like as a person?” he was asked.

“Fabulous,” Barre replied. “A gentleman. A real nice, sympathetic good person. Very modest.”

Long Island Weekly asked Barre if this reporter’s favorite song from the 1970 album Benefit, “With You There To Help Me,” would be on the playlist.

“Ah, no (laughs). There you go,” he replied. “Mainly [because] we played it a lot with Ian and he had a short list of songs that he liked to do, and all of those songs got thrashed a bit over the years. Maybe one day we’ll do the stuff that we’ve never played. Things like ‘Minstrel’ and ‘Teacher.’ Ian never liked them, but I love them. I think they’re really great pieces of music.”

Regarding his future Barre said, “There’s always something on the horizon. I’m always writing music and I want to go back to doing more of my solo stuff.”

From the interview:

On lead singer Dan Crisp: “I’ve known Dan for a long time, and his voice has never changed. It lends itself really well to the songs. He can sing anything from the Tull catalog.”

On fans accepting obscure songs: “I did not want predictability in anything we do. I don’t want [to play] the best hits or the same set list as last year. I change everything on a nightly basis, because fans who come to more than one show deserve to hear something a bit different. It’s also fun for us to have some variety. And I think some of the great songs were the ones that were never performed live. But many people really enjoy some of the obscure songs and really appreciate that we’re not doing the obvious.”

On guitar technology over the decades: “I actually don’t think it has changed much. I’ve seen a t-shirt where it goes through the development of man from the ape and then underneath it has a Fender Stratocaster through the years, and it’s exactly the same (laughs). Everything is more reliable, but essentially it’s the same sound.”

On not interacting with fans after the show: “You can get ill, so we’re very strict with fans. They understand that we can’t mix. If one of us gets ill, we’ve lost the tour. They really have to appreciate what we have to do. It’s a whole different set of rules.”

On guitarists he admires: Leslie West of Mountain (“God bless him”); Scott Henderson “a [jazz] fusion player”; Julian Bream, a classical guitar player; Paco de Lucia, a jazz guitarist; and Gary Moore, a master of various styles. “I could go on,” he said.

Final thoughts: “We all weather in different ways. Some weather well, some don’t.”

Barre In Concert

On Friday, Feb. 11 at 8 p.m., the Madison Theatre at Molloy College presents “Martin Barre Performs Classic Jethro Tull.” Per a press release, it features “Dan Crisp on lead vocals, Alan Thomson on keyboard and Darby Todd on drums, with Becca Langsford and Alex Hart on vocals, plus two very special guests—Dee Palmer and Clive Bunker (the band’s original drummer)—both of whom performed with Tull for many years. The show will also feature a special multimedia presentation that, together with the music, highlights the 50 years of Tull’s musical career.”

“Everything we do is fresh and every year we have a different tour,” Barre told Long Island Weekly. “Nobody gets tired of doing it. It’s a very thriving,
energetic band.”

Visit www.madisontheatreny.org or call 516-323-4444 for tickets.

Frank Rizzo
Frank Rizzo is a journalist at Anton Media Group. With decades of experience in the industry, he is exceptionally equipped to cover local politics, business and other topics that matter to readers.

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