Monday, October 6, 2014

And Now For Something Completely Different ...

... and I'm not just saying that because he kind of reminded me of Eric Idle up on stage ...  

But the Al Stewart concert we saw Sunday Night at The Arcada Theatre was quite a bit different from ANY that we have seen in the recent past.  

Accompanied by Dave Nachmanoff (an absolute WIZARD on the acoustic guitar) and bassist Mike Lindauer (both of whom also opened each set with a couple of Dave's solo works), Stewart put on a brilliant show from start to finish.

Al Stewart is a great story teller ... and I found a whole new appreciation for the depth of his compositions ... he is clearly a very well educated and well-read man who uses imagery and metaphors to his full advantage when crafting his music ... and crafting is EXACTLY the right verb to describe his songwriting process ... an art form he takes very seriously ... whether it be writing about two airplanes landing at different airports (a broken love affair), songs about the French Revolution or his inspiration to record an entire album pointing out the idiosyncrasies of all of our past U.S. Presidents!!!  (Think I'm kidding???  He's already got at least three completed!!!  And they're beautiful.)

Stewart sees the world from a different perspective ... and the sound of those two crystal clear acoustic guitars created magic Sunday Night.  (In a way, it was reminiscent of what a Jim Croce concert was like back in the day ... Croce was the consummate story-teller and Maury Muehleisen the gifted accompanist who filled in all the frills and harmonies as needed ... but most of Croce's show was played for laughs.)  While Al Stewart exhibited a great sense of humor about his music ... even joking about how at 17 he realized that he was never going to "fit" into a rock band ... but then discovered Bob Dylan ... "who couldn't play or sing either" ... at which point he realized that he could still have a career doing what he loved doing ... his songs are serious and sophisticated ... and Nachmanoff's absolutely stellar playing enhanced every song and became the driving force behind each and every track, often inspiring the crowd to applaud and cheer him on for his outstanding work.  From start to finish, these traveling minstrels displayed their wares in a manner that I found both up-lifting and truly inspiring. 

(Stewart also told us that after seeing Jimi Hendrix perform all three shows at The Saville Theatre in 1968, he never picked up an electric guitar again, resigning himself to the fact that he really didn't know what to do with it!)  It was that type of humor and perspective that made the show as enjoyable as it was.  This worldly, well-traveled professional musicians was acknowledging his own short-comings, all the while winning us over with what he does best.  (Dirty Harry himself couldn't have said it better:  A man has got to know his limitations!)

Now that I have seen Al Stewart in person ... and heard the stories and inspirations behind some of this great music ... I will be the first to admit that apparently MOST of Al Stewart's music went right over my head in the past ... I had absolutely NO idea what he was actually singing about ... I just liked the overall sound and well-structured lyrics.  I learned so much listening to his stories and inspirations behind these songs that I also have to admit to feeling a whole lot dumber during most of the performance ... he'd brush off some historical event with "Well, everybody knows that ..." ... but I certainly didn't!!!  (lol)  That being said, thank you for educating me ... and for pointing out all that I missed along the way!  (Al, you've got an open invitation to come by our place ANY time of your choosing ... and explain what the rest of this music really means ... 'cause I would LOVE to know!  Up until now, I dismissed most of it as simply music I liked "because it had a good beat and you could dance to it!!!"  It's SO much more.)   

Stewart had five major hits between 1977 and 1980 ... and despite a show that lasted nearly two full hours, he didn't even play two of them.  ("Song On The Radio", which we featured last week as part of our salute to radio, and "Midnight Rocks" were nowhere to be found ... but "On The Border", "Time Passages" and the show closer "Year Of The Cat" were performed to near perfection.)  It didn't matter ... even though most of the material was unfamiliar to me,I enjoyed every minute of discovering it.  (Even host Ron Onesti, who had ever seen Stewart perform before, had to admit "I knew it was going to be good ... but I didn't know it was going to be THAT good!")  

I joked that this must be Al's "low-overhead" tour ... throughout the performance, only the above-mentioned three musicians were on stage ... and there were times when that all-too-familiar smooth-jazz sax solo would have been a nice, welcome accessory ... or perhaps a bit of piano ... but the band made the most with what they had and the audience loved it.  (I half-expected Stewart to make a comment before performing "On The Border" ... since the restaurant baring that name is literally right down the street from The Arcada Theatre ... but that's probably more just my twisted mind at work than anything else!) 

The trio has just completed a whirlwind of midwest dates but still have a number of shows coming up between now and the end of the year ... and Al's return to Scotland and a tour of Europe in early 2015.  (Stewart will be performing his "Year Of The Cat" album in its entirety for many of these shows.)   

Complete information can be found on his website:  Click here: Al Stewart - Official Website - Tour.  You'll also find music and lyrics to most of his recorded works, a very complete discography and biography, along with all kinds of other really cool stuff here.  

For a completely different concert experience ... and an enjoyable night out ... check out Al's touring schedule to see if he'll be appearing anywhere near you in the not-too-distant future ... highly recommended.  (kk)