Martyn Joseph plays Bruce Springsteen, Cecil Sharp House (London. UK February 20th 2014)
Last year when I saw Bruce Springsteen play Wembley Stadium he finished the night with a solo acoustic Thunder Road and I closed my review by saying “I would be thrilled to bits if that next time was a solo acoustic show in a small venue but that isn’t going to happen is it?” The craftsmanship and poetry in his storytelling just shine through when the songs are stripped back to their bare bones.
Well…later in 2013 Martyn Joseph who has often been referred to as ‘the Welsh Springsteen’ released TIRES RUSHING BY IN THE RAIN his interpretation of seventeen Springsteen tracks. This acoustic collection mixes classics with less obvious choices and it has become a favourite with critics and fans alike. Tonight in a special one-off show Joseph performed the album in its entirety.
In front of an audience that included die-hard Springsteen fans, Joseph brought the songs to life with his trademark energy and passion. There is no mistaking the respect Joseph affords to ‘The Boss’ and he’s been very eloquent himself describing how over the years Springsteen’s particular ability to write songs that speak to the adult male have also helped him (Joseph) to see hope, to have hope and make him feel like he wasn’t alone in the world.
The sequencing of the songs was different from the album – putting a set-list together for a live show calls for a different emphasis from an album track list, so that kept the audience wondering what would come next – a wise move!
It was a moving tribute – from the many highlights I’d pick out No Surrender which closed out the first set but not before Joseph asked us whether we’d prefer to hear it played on guitar or on ukulele. It was an impossible choice for the audience so he started it with guitar and finished it with a uke! Badlands for which, the opener, Willy Porter accompanied Joseph. Their combined guitars nearly took the roof off the building! One Step Up, which Joseph deconstructed, verse by verse, giving an insightful analysis of the story behind the song.
He finished the night by thanking the audience for a unique and beautiful experience telling us that he was going to sing a song that reflected just how he felt – Happy. A standing ovation before finishing the night with Land of Hope and Dreams. Another standing ovation.
I think Joseph was very brave to release a whole album of Springsteen covers – how could you do justice to one of the biggest names in the history of rock music? Joseph has managed it with style and grace and has said ‘thank you’ to his hero in the best way he knows how. TIRES RUSHING BY IN THE RAIN is in the words of respected music critic and Springsteen biographer, Dave Marsh, ‘a damned good album’ and tonight was a damned good night – I was so pleased to have been there to witness a very special performance. Jela Webb
At a house concert in 2011 Martyn Joseph deconstructs One Step Up