MJ Fitz 7

If you can look through Soul Surmise you will see many many reviews of Martyn Joseph gigs. If you read carefully something might surprise you. How at almost every gig I am concentrating on different songs. You can never say, “Oh I’ve seen Martyn Joseph so I won’t go again”.

Tonight is no different and indeed highlights the fact for me. Since Martyn last played Fitzroy, just before lockdown, he has released the very best album of a 40 year old career, 1960, as well as two songs for the moment they were written in, When We Get Through This about lockdown and I’d Take You Out about the Russian President.

The former is a pastoral song of resistance and hope, the latter a political rage that reminds me of Bruce Cockburn’s If I Had a Rocket Launcher. It’s a song not wanting to be sung, especially by a pacifist but righteous anger demands it in spite of the contradiction. 

Political rage was once the spine of Martyn’s set list. It is different now. Oh there’s still the social critique. As he sang Here Come The Young I suddenly realised that it is about the sins that the old are handing the young as much as what they can teach us in their “inclusive from the start”.

The 1960 album is the fulfilment of a change in Joseph’s songwriting from the protest song to the personally reflective. 1960 is a songwriter doing that and leaving us a template for our own soul searching. Felt So Much a particular highlight as him in his dad’s Renault at 5 years of age, Shadow Boxing is about his dad’s Alzheimers and Born Too Late is regret at being born too late for some great music and also an asking who he now is. Getting older causes us all to look back and assess who we now are and why.

I am particularly drawn to There Is A Field a hope for the beyond, taken from a line of Rumi’s via writer and lay pastor Martin Wroe. So delicate, so hopeful.

The big finish of This Light Is Ours also a co write with Wroe is communal in chorus and sense of faith in each other as well as a transcendent light.

The singing tonight and the connection from stage to audience has that communal written all over it, from the third song This Glass that saw almost everyone singing.

I am at the door as people are leaving. A woman says to me:

“I love that honesty, that mix of doubt and faith” 

“Oh doubt and faith have a strong relationship”. 

“I’m from… “ 

“Oh dear, not much doubt there!” 

Well tonight at least she had honesty and belief side by side, sometimes in the very same couplet, whether Thunder and Rainbows or I’ve Searched For You or maybe even Everything In Heaven Falls Apart. The latter was a request by Andy McKinney who then had come and hold the lyrics for Martyn to read. A lovely moment in an evening of them. 

Martyn Joseph creates moments. Funny ones. Sad ones. Inquisitive ones. Wrestling ones. Angry ones. Hopeful ones. Different ones. Every single night. 


Ian Bowden

Brilliant night and you are so right. Every time you hear him, there is something new and thought provoking.

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