Gary Lucas who has played and composed with the likes of Jeff Buckley, Captain Beefheart, Lou Reed and Nick Cave, performed at the Liverpool Philharmonic Music Room on Friday 4th May, Naomi Campbell went along to check him out and here is her review:
The sounds of a frenzied acoustic guitar fill the room with no indication or introduction. On stage walks a tall, dark figure with a cowboy hat lay low, covering his eyes. We are waiting open-mouthed and carefully still for Gary Lucas. The New York born musical prodigy. A man of many talents gliding through decade after decade with his accomplished guitar playing that’s seen him alongside great American names Jeff Buckley, Captain Beefheart and Gods and Monsters to name a few.
Adding to his extensive list of live shows in over 40 Countries Lucas returned to the Liverpool Philharmonic on Friday as part of his solo multi-media live set entitled “An Evening with Gary Lucas: From Beefheart to Buckley and Beyond”.
A fitting title, devoted fans were swept back into the greatest Lucas memories with studio talk, demos and all things Blues. The two-hour show uncovered a collection of old and new masterpieces through a laid-back performance delving into one man’s life including exclusive videos of live intimate performances between Lucas and Buckley.
Lucas first perked Buckley’s ears at a tribute performance at a church in Brooklyn for the late singer’s father. It was at this concert where a young Buckley spied from the pews and approached the budding solo artist with ‘popped eyes’ looking ‘electric’. Taking a ‘leap of faith’ Buckley and Lucas joined forces starting a tight collaboration leading to a dozen songs including ‘Grace’, (originally ‘Rise Up to Be’). With an “unconsciously” written intro, the track remained a favourite with Buckley and many of us still today. For this complex piece Lucas was joined on stage by Liverpool’s own Natalie McCool who delivered a pristine dedication with a warming, passionate voice in perfect parallel to Lucas’ deep Cohen- style tones.
Reminiscence played a key role during the concert as Lucas flickered through old stories bringing them to life by adding instrumentation to his tales whilst surrounded by his catalogue of unique sounds and experiments, the fresh memories sparking right out of his fingertips landing directly onto our all too welcoming laps.
The quiet, dimly lit room proved the perfect setting for a one-man show from one of America’s, arguably the world’s greatest guitarists who at 65 years old has achieved a whirlwind of awards and honorary titles. Labelled in 2016 as “one of the 100 Greatest Living Guitarists” (Classic Rock) Lucas further received a Lifetime Achievement Award in December at the Premio Ciampi Festival in Tuscany.
The accompanying stars of the show were Lucas’s old-faithful companions; his glossy green 1966 Fender Stratocaster and 1942 Gibson J-45 acoustic. With an extensive backlog of solo shows Lucas was able to deliver a diverse live set with flange flaring pedals, country-tinged slide and looping skills creating a bassline acting almost as a recurring drumbeat to his own ‘song’. The fast paced, brooding figure on stage made all the more intriguing under a sombre-lit glow to accompany his acoustic serenades and a frenzy of bold greens and raucous red lights surrounding the layering melodies and mythical sounds catapulting out of the electric.
Those with a curious ear were left baffled by Lucas’ mysterious tuning style, playing in keys and scales we dare not experiment with. ‘Obscure’ and ‘open tuning’ from country blues artists is something Lucas enjoys, perhaps deriving from his stems of a childhood love of fantasy, science fiction and horror films leading to his involvement with major TV, and film scores, featuring on his retrospective album Improve the Shining Hour. A devoted Lucas is sincere when it comes to sharing his extensive skills with others leading guitar masterclasses and seminars at Universities across America, culminating with a ‘Giving a Guitar’ Masterclass and solo concert for disadvantaged children at the Biblioteca Benjamin Franklin in Mexico City in 2016.
Still, Lucas is certain that it’s all ‘in the fingers’ and the ‘soul’ encouraging the wide -eyed audience that there’s a genuine, hard-working being under the assortment of musical masks representing the guitarist we know too well.
An anticipated encore swiftly followed a standing ovation from the besotted crowd leading to one final showcase on Lucas’ desert island instrument, the acoustic. A timeless piece from ‘the world of captain Beefheart’ and the renowned ‘Safe as Milk’ album and with that we too are safely heading home to cling onto our guitars, lyric books, loved ones, and of course our dreams.
As recommended by Lucas we can read more about his ventures and experiences with Buckley and beyond in his book; ‘Touched by Grace: My Time with Jeff Buckley’ or you can find out more for yourself at one of his upcoming tour dates continuing at The Bush Hall in London on the 14th May.