Bert Jansch at Martyrs’: Live review
Sometimes its not the chords, but how a player moves from one to the next.
Guitarist Bert Jansch, who stopped in at Martyrs' last evening ahead of his appearance at Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival, deftly displayed that concept.
The sixty-seven year old guitarist's voice wasn't always up to the task of following his rambling fingers, but Jansch has internalized a huge portion of the British, Scotts and Irish traditional song book. A rapt audience waited in honest silence between songs as the performer fiddled with a capo, but didn't do too much in the way of storytelling, perhaps a stolid example the late Jack Rose took to heart.
When there were brief interludes between applause and tarted-up jazz chords wrought on his steel stringed guitar, Jansch seemed demure about his accomplishments and the career he's followed for the better part of the last fifty years. Mentioning anyone from Annie Anne Briggs to Jackson C. Frank, audience members were tipped to what number the guitarist was set to traipse through.
Easily a hundred people stood around or sat at tables while songs like "The Auld Triangle" and Jackson's "Blues Run the Game" were properly versioned, each rendered in the most deliberate manner. Jansch doesn't possess the aggressive tendencies of American Primitive guitarists - John Fahey or Leo Kottke specifically. The latter's "Vaseline Machine Gun" probably doesn't have an equivalent on the other side of the Atlantic. But a few times, Jansch was able to confound the crowd with ideas and references suited only for those with accents foreign to Chicagoans.
His one lengthy story involved opening for ex-Libertine, ex-Babyshambles, ex-everything Pete Doherty —a promising tale involving folk music's future. After that name was mentioned, though, a room wide murmur went up that went something like, "Who's that?" The unremarkable confusion points to why Jansch still performs in modestly sized venues (the Clapton gig notwithstanding) in this country. Fahey's not around anymore, but Kottke regularly gigs at opera houses and doesn't have tremendous difficulty filling each.
The cultural and spatial divide notwithstanding, Jansch was called back for an encore. A standing ovation preceding and following the last clutch of three songs. For a moment it appeared the guitarist literally had a twinkle in his eye. It turned out to be a bead of sweat hanging onto his wrenched-up brow while tossing off an appropriate blues cover or two before sauntering off stage and slowly maneuvering through the crowd towards the back of the club.
Hit the jump for a track where Jansch is joined by John Renbourn and a percussionist. Brit folk at its finest...