Wednesday, October 06, 2004

The incredible, rhyme animal

Okay, I didn't spend tonight at a Public Enemy gig. Instead, I went to see Bob Brozman at the Armagh Marketplace Theatre. Now, most people haven't heard of Bob, he's sort of a secret amongst the guitar playing fraternity.

He's a virtuoso, a musician's musician. Normally, when you say that, you see people's eyes glaze over. The term "guitar virtuoso" is synonymous with the fret-wankery of hairy metallers like Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, et al. Guys whose idea of stagecraft is to stand in front of a giant fan blowing their mullet back photogenically, while they noisily "explore" the mixolydian mode.

Bob (and after tonight, I feel I can call him "Bob"), is more of a musical anthropologist. An ethno-musicologist, if you will. He travels the world to see how other cultures have adapted the guitar to their traditions, and then he whips out his National steel guitar and starts jamming with them. As such, he has more in common with figures like Jerry Silverman or even David Byrne than Yngwie friggin' Malmsteen. Despite the patronage of the guitar-mag community.

So, along with playing slide guitar standards by Robert Johnson and Charlie Patton, Bob (with such a likeable stage presence, it really would be rude to try and be critically objective and refer to him as "Brozman") played traditional music from Papua New Guinea, Trinidad, France, Ireland, West Africa, India, Hawaii, Japan, Madagascar. None of it seemed like a dry lecture, instead all being filtered through his western, blues sensibilities. Instead of being academic, he was humourous, frequently political, and, by turns, bawdy.

I must admit, when I was told I'd been bought a ticket to see this guy, whose work I knew largely by tutorial sessions on the cover-mounted CDs that came with guitar magazines, I wasn't sure what to expect. I thought it could go either way - it might have been the dry lecture I feared it would be. Who'd have thought that a punk-assed guy like me could have enjoyed an extended world music seminar by a bearded lefty intellectual? What a revoltin' development!
I'll never be able to show my face at a Misfits gig again!