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Jethro Tull’s Barre to open beach concerts - Ocean City Sentinel: News

Jethro Tull’s Barre to open beach concerts

Somers Point’s free summer series begins June 21 at William Morrow Beach

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Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2019 9:54 am

Any guitar player in a local band in the 1970s worth his salt could play the guitar riff from Jethro Tull’s “Aqualung.” It followed the lyrics “sitting on a park bench.”

That riff was played the band’s lead guitarist, Martin Barre, who will be headlining the first Somers Point beach concert of the year June 21. Barre spent 43 years as a member of Jethro Tull. His current tour celebrates 50 years of the music of a band that drew from classical, folk and occasionally hard rock influences.

Jethro Tull, named for the Englishman who invented the seed press, no longer exists as a band but Barre and former frontman Ian Anderson tour separately celebrating the music of the band. The band officially split up in 2012. Anderson may be remembered for his on-stage antics of standing on one leg while turning the flute into a rock ‘n’ roll instrument. The band introduced us to characters such as “Cross Eyed Mary,” and the rhythm of “Locomotive Breath.”

This writer recalls seeing three members of Jethro Tull in 1972 standing across the street from the Bayfront Center Arena in St. Petersburg, Fla., peering into Tampa Bay an hour before show time. Barre said he did not hide away from the public.

“We never were very protective of what we did or where we were, we just treated ourselves as normal people and mixed with everybody else,” he said. “There was never any sort of rock star attitude going on.”

The Martin Barre Band covers Jethro Tull music from 1969 to its conclusion.

“None of it sounds dated,” Barre said. 

He said the band’s music was never written to follow trends. 

Barre released a solo album last year called “The Road Less Traveled.” It includes a song entitled “Lone Wolf,” which he said was inspired by the movie “An American Werewolf in London,” one of his all-time favorites. He said his lyrics are rarely “deadly serious.”

“I don’t know what constitutes modern music and what constitutes prog music or blues music or classic rock or new rock; I don’t attach any of these labels to any of my music or any of Tull’s music,” he said. “I just think if it is timeless, then that is the best thing you can say about it because you never want music to sound tired or dated.”

“Everything we do never feels that way, it always feels very fresh and very exciting to play and very dynamic on stage,” Barre continued.

He is known for playing electric guitar cleanly without a lot of pedals, effects and “cranky gizmos.”

“I never want to be tied to a pedal board on stage,” Barre said. “I occasionally stick a wah-wah pedal in line but I’ll soon get bored with it.”

Barre said he can create guitar effects in a more natural way and prefers a more pure guitar sound.

He has a fond memory of appearing on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” in 1993 for the 25th anniversary of Jethro Tull when the band performed a harder-edged version of “Living in the Past.”

Barre recalls Leno as a nice person and friendly. For the performance, Barre wore a monocle. 

Jethro Tull’s “Thick as a Brick” was meant to be a parody of concept albums.

“I don’t like musicians who take themselves seriously because at the end of the day, we’re just rock musicians. We’re not the best musicians on the planet, we’re not the most technical or adept at what we’re playing, we’re in there having fun and entertaining people,” he said.

While Anderson drew much of the attention on stage for his costumes and mannerisms, Barre agrees a concert should be a visual experience and a communication between the band and the audience should be fun.

“Jethro Tull never took themselves seriously,” he said. 

Barre said they witnessed other bands with a rock star attitude on stage, an attitude he described as “ludicrous.”

“No one is that important,” he said. “The music’s important but the people that play it, they’re just people.”

The audience should have fun, Barre said, noting a band should deliver a package of entertainment.

Rock ‘n’ roll began for Barre by hearing Billy Haley and the Comets’ record “Rock Around the Clock.” He said it was the first record that came to England that was recognized as rock ‘n’ roll. Much of early rock musicians in England just copied what they heard from America, he said, and it crossed the Atlantic slowly in “dribs and drabs.”

“In a way it was good because you digested it over a long period of time, you really got to learn and understand what was going on in rock ‘n’ roll,” he said. “As a musician, it was a nice, slow-cooking process.”

“You had Elvis Presley, we had Cliff Richard. You had Jerry Lee Lewis and we had Eddie Cochran,” Barre continued. 

Even as rock fades from the radio dial today, he said he believes it will always have its place in the history of music. 

Barre’s live show includes a lot of Tull songs, blues classics and his solo material. 

“We’ll make sure it’s fresh and exciting, unpredictable, but people will hear lot of music, if not all the music, that will make them really, really happy,” he said.

The Somers Point concert is set to start at 7 p.m. June 21 at William Morrow Beach on Bay Avenue and is free to the public. For more information, visit somerspointbeachconcerts.com.

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