Martyn Joseph is a performer like no other: Shades of Springsteen, John Mayer, Bruce Cockburn and Dave Matthews there may be - but he stands in his own right, built on a reputation for giving what thousands have described as the best live music experience of their lives delivering his "songs of lyrical intelligence" according to BBC Radio 2's Bob Harris.

December 6, 1999 5:49 pm

Belfast – Mac

Hi all, Mac here again. Well, where to begin. We set off Sunday afternoon to drive up to East Midlands Airport, and from there catch a flight to Belfast where Martyn was scheduled to perform Monday night. I have to say that I was probably looking forward to this trip more than any other I can remember, as I’ve heard so many great things about Ireland and it’s people, and it’s one of those places that you remember hearing about growing up as a kid. Unfortunately for the people there, we all know the reasons why it is such an infamous place.

We made it up to the airport rather smoothly and even had the parking lot shuttle bus arrive to pick us up just as we got out of the car. We were both starting to worry as things seemed to be going too well at this point! Although Martyn soon realized that in our haste to get on the shuttle bus quickly, he had misplaced the parking ticket, this seemed quite unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Our journey was further enhanced when we were told at check in that although our baggage was over the weight limit, they happened to be using a jet for this particular leg of the flight ( they usually used a smaller prop plane ) so they could let us through at no extra charge. As I was carrying about 5 stone worth of cd’s and programs that Martyn had stuffed into my bag, we figured that if we could force enough people to buy them at the concert we should make it under the weigh limit for the trip hom

We arrived in Belfast and stayed with Steve and Janice ( and Caitlin, the newest addition to their family ). Steve is the Chaplain at the University Martyn was playing at, and also has his own radio show ( and an enormous cd collection! ). After Martyn performed a mini-concert for about 60 of the students and then did a “question and answer” session about songwriting, life, etc., we stayed up ’till about 4:00a.m. listening to music, talking, and (gasp) watching an NHL hockey game on SKY. This, as I’m sure you can imagine, was not my choice, but I felt I had to be polite. The following day Steve had arranged for a friend of his to pick us up and take us on a guided tour of Belfast. However, before Gordon our tour guide arrived, a gentleman named Colin turned up to say hi to Martyn. Colin is a reviewer for MOJO magazine, and has just completed a review of Far From Silent for this months edition of MOJO. Don’t know if I’m allowed to tell you this or not but I think there’s about 4 stars beside Marytn’s name in this review! Pick up a copy if you get a chance

Gordon, who is a fireman in Belfast, arrives to take us on our tour of the city. One of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, he leaves no area of town untouched. I view The Falls Road and Shankhill Road for the first time in my life. What an eye opener. Living in North America most of my life you get the feeling from the news reports that basically small factions do all the damage, but that it’s an “unseen” minority. Although the helicopters, road blocks, and patrolling soldiers might for the most part be gone, what struck me most was the fact that the entire city was basically “marked” as to which side controlled that area of town. It looked to me like a massively scaled up version of a gang war in any US cit

What really threw me was the fact that every town or city in Northern Ireland was apparently identical in this respect. Another amazing sight was the fact that in most places the two sides where separated by 12 feet of pavement. I was expecting that one group would be located on one side of town, and the other group at the opposite side of town, however there would literally be splits where one side of the street was controlled by Loyalists and the other by the IRA. Even more to my amazement was the fact that you could be driving along in an area controlled by one side, and then for about 2 blocks you would see the markings for the other side, then back to the original markings. Despite “The Troubles”, and the fact that people have had to live in that situation for so long, there seems to be a sense of hope and excitement ( however guarded or unsure it is at times ) that the time may finally be coming that peace can rest over the land without the possibility of an eruption and decline to the volatility of the past. I can only echo Martyn’s sentiments in saying that it’s great to see some hope in the situation over there, and that the people of Ireland certainly deserve the peace that has been kept from them for so long

After returning from one of the most eye opening experiences of my life, we have a little bite to eat and then get ready to do the show. Steve, who has also promoted the show, is ecstatic that it is basically sold out and as a result Martyn’s stage area is “reduced” so that people will be able to sit on the floor in front of him as well ( sort of a 60’s thing, you know ). Just as we are getting ready to walk over to the venue there is a knock at the door and a man with a very thick Irish accent walks in and informs Martyn ( who happens to be standing closest to the doorway ) that “yer 6000 litres of oil are here, where do ya’ want it?”. We peer outside and sure enough there’s a tanker truck waiting to unload 6000 litres of heating oil. Martyn quickly jokes to me that it’s the first time on the whole tour that the request on his performance ryder for 6000 litres of oil has been met! I’m wondering if perhaps we should keep the oil, as a friend of ours had recently said that he thought Martyn always looks “cold” on his album pictures. We turn up at the hall and enjoy listening to Dave, a student who Martyn has agreed to let play a few songs prior to Martyn starting his set. Martyn then takes the stage and for the first time plays solo, as this is the first concert that Nigel hasn’t been seated to Martyn’s right, tickling the ivories as only he can. Martyn jokes to the crowd that Nigel wasn’t able to play tonight because they needed the extra room at the side of the stage for people to sit on the floor. The crowd is treated to a “Martino Jose’ – Unplugged”, so to speak, and loves it. As always, they hang on his every word and his thoughtful meanings behind some of his songs, as well as raucously singing along to “Liberal Backslider”. Another unique experience, as there is always something new that unfolds in his playing everynight. After his customary availability to greet people after the show and sign autographs, we head back to Steve and Janice’s to pick up our belongings before heading out with George and Kay who are longtime friends of Martyn, with whom we will be staying the night. Before we leave however, we are informed that Martyn’s new album Far From Silent has been chosen by the US music website Phantom Tollbooth as “Pick of the Month” by it’s group of reviewers! You can check it out yourself at: I for one am really glad to see that people in North America are recognizing the depth of this album as well. With that in tow, we head off into the Belfast night with George and Kay. Upon arriving at their home we indulge in a late night meal of burgers and beans ( we’ll be keeping the windows open tonight! ) and after chatting for a while our hosts head off to bed and leave the “Rock Stars” to prowl the early morning airwaves of the various music channels on SKY TV, be-rating most of the videos on offer in a style that would make Beavis and Butthead proud. We finally “shut ‘er down” about 4:00 a.m. and after talking for a half hour or so about our day, drift off to sleep a little wiser for our experiences

OK. I realize that this is has been a rather in-depth overview of our trip so far, as this is basically covering 3 days of highlights. HOWEVER. You may want to take a quick break for a cup af coffee at this point, as this is where things start to get “Pipe-ish” (anyone who has followed the tour journal so far will know what I mean by that ). Being the nice guy that I am, and also due to the fact that I’m very appreciative that my buddy gave me the opportunity to do this tour, I figured I’d give him a break and not mention the fact that after we left last night to head over to George and Kay’s, Martyn decided to use George’s in-car phone to call his mobile to see which bag it was packed in. When Janice answered at the other end however, we knew we were headed for the dreaded “Martyn Joseph U-Turn” as Nigel had affectionately come to call it. This fact was poked at Martyn as we were preparing to leave George and Kay’s on the way to the airport, but after a quick check for his file-a-fax we were assured that everything we as it should be and off we went. The ride to the airport was another enlightening experience, as George and Kay are absolutely amazing people. Having lived in the area all their lives they have lived through all “The Troubles”, and the fact that George refuses to discriminate against anyone and stands up for his beliefs in an absolutely uncompromising, yet completely compassionate manner ( he recently received a medal from the Mayor of Belfast for outstanding Community Service ), has made him unpopular with some people over the years. Quite simply put, I don’t know if I’ve ever met an entire family that has such a gentleness about them, yet at the same time exudes such an intense strength at the same time. Listening to some of George and Kay’s stories about their lives was an awesome and humbling experience, and one I will never forget. We arrived at the airport and said goodbye. George jokingly said he would call me if he needed a bodyguard. I said thanks, but that I’m sure I would just happen to be busy!

So, Martyn and I checked in ( luggage and all ) and started up the escalator at a leisurely pace, as our flight wasn’t leaving for half an hour. This was a nice change as we usually ended up running against the clock due to traffic etc., so we were reflecting on our visit with George and Kay and talking a bit about the charity concert Martyn was doing in London in about 5 hours. Strangely, Martyn started to slow just slightly, and as I watched him fumbling with his pockets he turned to me with that look of “half horror – half angst” ( no really, this is a different look than normal! ). I simply looked at my good friend and said “What have you done”. “My car keys” he said, “I’ve left them on the table at George and Ruth’s”. Now, let’s take a quick look at the situation here: 1.) Martyn has a concert in London in less than 5 hours, 2.) We are flying into East Midlands Airport, not Heathrow, so we still have a 2 hour drive to London once we get there, 3.) Martyn’s car is parked at East Midlands Airport, however, we now don’t have the keys to start it, 4.) George and Kay are on their way back to their house, but we have no way to contact them as Martyn doesn’t have George’s mobile number and, as we were leaving today, BT was at their house to repair their home phone line which is currently in-operative, so we can’t call their daughters who are currently at the house, to inform them of the situation and hopefully contact George. 5.) George’s house is a good 30-40 minute trip from the airport – one way! 6.) Our plane is now leaving in 28 minutes. To quote Martyn’s own lyrics in “Going Home” ( the strangely appropriate tale of a man almost at the end of his journey home that finds out he can’t make it across the bridge for the last leg of his trip because he is 10 pence short of the toll amount), it doesn’t look good. Are we having fun yet?

After a quick discussion, Martyn starts making calls on his mobile to try and figure out what can be done on the other end in case we can’t get the keys in time. I try to look up George’s business’s phone number in the phone book in hopes that perhaps they could get a message to George for us. I find the number and Martyn quickly calls and a very helpful fellow on the other end gives Martyn George’s mobile number. It’s a start. Martyn then manages to get George on the phone and explains the situation to him. He says he will try to get hold of one of the girls and get them to drive the keys part way out so that he can then turn around and try to get them to the airport in time. We now have 24 minutes. We decide to talk to an airline representative and explain our situation in hopes of a “mercy delay”. Again, it doesn’t look good. We start walking towards the gate and then decide to backtrack to where we checked in and talk to the main folks down there. As we’re turning around, two young ladies that are doing an airport survey ask if we could spare them a couple of minutes. Martyn politely explains that we’re having a bit of an emergency and that we don’t have time ( I’m sure they’ve heard that line before ). We now have 23 minutes. On our way down I decide to throw up a “quick word”, in hopes that we can make our flight, as Martyn is after all going to do a charity concert. Martyn explains our situation to the airline rep, and although very sympathetic to our plight, she says there isn’t much she can do other than to let us stay down here and wait for the keys until the last possible moment. She suggests that they could receive the keys for us and send them on the next flight, however Martyn explains that we still have to drive to London from the Midlands, and get there by 7:30, so that wouldn’t really help us. She asks if we’ve got hold of the people about the keys and if so, how far from the airport are they? Martyn has just finished talking to George and they are at a well known roundabout not far from their house. The airline rep says she lives right near that same roundabout and then adds sheepishly ” there’s no way they’ll make it”. We now have 19 minutes

We wait. Martyn stares at his phone. We wait so more. I think I hear the airline rep talking on the phone, something about a delay. Don’t know what flight she’s talking about though. We wait. Martyn yells at his phone to ring. Airline rep comes over, asks if we’ve heard from them yet. “Not yet” is our answer. A lady on the in-bound flight has taken ill, the paramedics are meeting the plane. There will be a 10 minute delay. Martyn asks if he’ll be able to get back through security quickly enough to make the flight if he gets the keys. They decide to wait outside for George so that she can walk Martyn back through security quickly. I wait. I have no phone to yell at. It is now 3:30, our scheduled departure time. I wait some more. 3:37. I see Martyn and the airline rep running towards me, I grab our stuff and meet them at the escalator as we start running towards the gate area. Martyn says he has something to tell me about Kay

The airline rep wishes us luck and tells us to hurry. Good advice. As we run past the same 2 survey takers I say “see, we weren’t kidding!”. They laugh. We run. We’re almost there now, gate is in site…….Gate Security. Martyn lights up the metal detector like a Christmas tree. I continue towards the gate in hopes that it’s still open. I round the corner. The last person is just walking through the door. I wave at the girl getting ready to close the boarding door as I bend my head around the corner to try and see whether the Pipe is on his way or if he’s currently being strip searched. I finally see him bounding towards me ( with all his clothing on, thankfully ) and we hand our boarding cards to the somewhat puzzled gate agent and bound down the jetway. We board the plane and take our seats. Martyn turns to me and tells me that as she was handing the keys to him, Kay asked if we were going to make the flight. Martyn said it looked like we had a chance. Kay said that on the way back to the airport she and George had “thrown a word up” for a 10 minute delay. It’s now 3:40. Make of it what you will.

Martyn and I arrive in Cardiff at about 1:00a.m. Wednesday morning. After
everything else that happened, the fact that the directions to the venue in London were “slightly inaccurate”, that Martyn and I arrived in the lobby of the venue to hear the announcer in the other room introducing Martyn Joseph to the delight of the crowd ( I did mention we were just walking into the lobby, didn’t I? ), or the fact that on the home we sat on the M4 for about an hour in a non-movable traffic jam from a truck fire that occurred 9 hours previous, didn’t really seem all that interesting to write about. We were just happy to finally be home. What a day. I’m going to bed for a week!

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