Jeff Martin, back in Australia

Cool news to come from the Armada gig at the East Brunswick Club last night: Jeff Martin, Canadian songwriter of note, previously of Ireland, has landed in Australia as a full-time resident. Although the travelling troubadour said he didn’t know just how much time he’d get to spend here.

The gig itself, being recorded, was damn fine, although the amount of inane crowd chatter during and between songs could be a headache for the final cut.

Martin, with Wayne Sheehy on percussion and Jay Cortez on bass (and other bits ‘n’ bobs, such as mandolin and harmonica), was in fine fettle for the two-hour performance in a hot, cramped venue offering superb sound. Seated mid-stage throughout in black shirt and jeans, he paraded a host of instruments during the night, including a hurdy gurdy, esraj, oud (won in a Cairo poker game) and theremin, as well as mainstay Gibson guitars, a classic Les Paul and an Australian-made 12-string.

The set list, similar to last year’s tour with familiar banter, ranged from Tea Party favourites such as Sister Awake and The Bazaar, to his signature solo tune, The Kingdom (album review here), again dedicated to Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires, and Armada tunes. He again offered crafty blends of NIN’s Hurt and Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart, and Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love.

One highlight was Coming Home, given extra gusto by his announcement of a move to Oz, and the closing encore song, Black Snake Blues, with Cortez on slide guitar.

In Sheehy and Cortez, Martin has found ideal complements, and, combined with the regularity of his touring, must bode well for the Armada’s future. Or so I hope.

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Jeff Martin and Wayne Sheehy at the Troubadour

I’m trying to recall the last time I was consumed by the music. Probably Nine Inch Nails ripping up the Soundwave festival. And now tonight, with Jeff Martin and Wayne Sheehy unleashing an intensity of peformance that was simply staggering. Playing at the Troubadour, an intimate acoustic gig with the sound right up to keep the chatterers quiet, the pair came out firing, Jeff on guitar and vocals, Wayne on percussion. The Bazaar to open, followed by Requiem/Hurt. And I was gone for all money. It helped that the front ranks stayed seated on the floor, offering superb line of sight. That the sound was, mostly, crisp and at just the right volume to drown out the background rabble without being painful, helped. But it was the attack, the emotion, the obvious rapport between the two, and of course the music, drawing from Tea Party and Jeff’s solo album and the Armada — the pair’s band, in this instance with Jay Cortes on bass. His addition for the last three songs — The Kingdom, Black Snake Blues/Whole Lotta Love and encore Save Me (with Jeff’s voice close to straining out) — added yet another dimension. Good news: Jeff reported a sellout of the Armada album in Aussie stores, and also that the Armada are set to return to Australia in November, with Roy Harper as guest.