Al Stewart came back to the Wildey, and I got one of the last available seats in the balcony. A man sat next to me and said "Hello," but didn't get overly friendly (yay). He did eventually remark that the stage was pretty stark. I said there had been a grand piano last time, and I really liked the pianist, but it looked like there was just an electronic keyboard this time.
It turned out the keyboard was used by a local kid who has posted YouTube videos of himself playing Al Stewart's songs. (I can't find him; I heard the name as David McKethran.) I would guess the kid is maybe 12. They introduced him and he came onstage to play "Time Passages" just before intermission.
Al's opening act was Dave Nachmanoff, who had opened for him last time as well. I'd forgotten this, and forgotten how good Nachmanoff is. The evening ended with the same dilemma I had last time: I want to buy a Nachmanoff CD, but not in front of Al Stewart, whom I worship. So I figured I would go home and download some tunes, and then I forgot, and then I forgot all about Dave Nachmanoff.
Backing up even further, the recorded music we heard as people assembled and found their seats was acoustic guitar with a bit of a flamenco sound, and it took me a while to realize it consisted of interpretations of Al Stewart songs. We found out later this was Dave Nachmanoff's CD of Al Stewart guitar covers. He is an amazing guitarist and a good songwriter who utterly failed to get the audience to join in on anything. Poor guy. But his songs are love songs and very lyrical - not exactly pub singalongs.
So he did three songs and then stayed onstage with Al Stewart. Nachmanoff played lead while Stewart played rhythm - and sang, of course. Stewart can't hit the high notes anymore. I enjoyed some of the melodic changes that resulted, but *heavy sighs * "Year of the Cat" was disappointing, because he had to take the climactic fifth line of every stanza and drop it into the lower octave. The buildup was lost.
Some of the banter and song intros seemed a little contrived, but I guess it's hard to come up with new material when you're touring. One of his segues was exactly the same as last time, but no less funny. When he finished "Flying Sorcery," he remarked, "That was a love song written entirely in aeronautical metaphors. ... Which brings us neatly to the French Revolution."
But I'm pretty sure the intro to "Almost Lucy" was ad-libbed. Nachmanoff muttered something off-mike to Al as he was tuning, and Al said, into the mike, "I thought we'd play in two different keys. It adds to the total jazz effect." Dave retorted, "You can play it in E Minor if you want, but you're going to have to sing it wayyy downnn heeeere." After playing around a bit, Al decided they'd leave that "to Thurston Warwick." Even with Google I haven't figured out who that is, but a lot of Al Stewart's allusions leave me in the dust. He jumps from Versailles to Antarctica to Foreigner's Mick Jones and the Rolling Stones, with random quotes from former British prime ministers. I can't keep up, but it's fun.
At intermission, the not-overly-friendly guy next to me stood up to reveal a Todd Rundgren tee shirt. "Aw man!" I said. "Todd Rundgren is playing at the Fox tonight with Ringo!" He said, "I know. I've seen Todd like six times." So we ended up discussing live concerts we've attended and upcoming shows. Eventually I confessed that I must have mixed up my concerts - it was Jonathan Edwards who performed barefoot with a pianist-in-tux at the grand piano.
He's going to see Robin Trower at the Pageant tonight. I was jealous so I had to throw in that I'm going to see Ian Hunter next month. "Oh yeah!" he said. "Mott the Hoople. Who's he got with him? I heard he had some of the guys from Mott the Hoople." (I don't know, but I'll be looking that up. Or not.) The Clapton chapter (Doyle Bramhall, Derek Trucks, Robert Cray) took us to Jeff Beck via Crossroads Festival; and my neighbor just saw Jeff Beck open up for ZZ Top.
So it turned out that a conversation with a total stranger was a highlight of my evening. (This always surprises me.) I recommended next week's Kelley Hunt show and I'm wondering if he'll show up. Or if I might bump into him if I suddenly decide to go see Robin Trower. *smiles*
Back to the concert. The small criticisms here are just tiny blemishes that did nothing to diminish the experience. The performance was superb and soul-satisfying, and ended far too soon. I thought he played "On the Border" WAY early in the concert, like second or third, but when I refer to my notes it was more like sixth ... so evidently I was gulping it all like a glutton. (Or accidentally like a martyr.)
I listened to the chord changes and Nachmanoff's sweet licks, the extra dimension of sound you get in live performances, and I thought, THIS. This is why live concerts. As much as I love recorded music, it's not the same.
I wonder how Neil Young's music recording project is going.