Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A (partial) evening with Leo Kottke

I first saw Leo Kottke at UTA about 35 years ago. He opened (opened!) for poor unsuspecting Jesse Colin Young. Baby-faced Leo came out armed with nothing but a couple of acoustic guitars and astonishing virtuosity and left the crowd howling for more. One of the notable tunes from this period was "Vaseline Machine Gun." That pretty much described Leo's playing.

After the intermission, Jesse took the stage only to discover half the  audience had deserted him. Guess what -- they hadn't come to see him. He was visibly annoyed.

I saw Leo Kottke tonight at Bass Hall in downtown Ft. Worth. Fortunately Los Lobos, who he opened for, has a pretty loyal and enthusiastic audience. But it was plain to see there were a lot of folks there (like me) for whom Leo was the main event.

The lights went down and gray-haired figure wandered to the front of the stage bearing a guitar. Gone was the baby-face, but the goofy grin remained as did the astonishing virtuosity. I was sitting in center section, five rows back and in heaven.

His playing had slowed down (just barely), but the breathtaking athleticism of his youthful technique had eased into something more relaxed and nuanced. A perfectly fine trade-off to my way of thinking. He played a number of old favorites, including Pete Seegar's "Life in the Country" (see the clip below), broken up with the usually shaggy dog monologues.

Alas, the only downside to the performance was that it was barely an hour long.

Incidentally, Los Lobos gave a credible performance (and unlike Jesse Colin Young, did not lose half the audience during intermission). I may be mistaken but I could have sworn they had Dick Armey back there playing bass for them. Nah....couldn't be.

Follow up note to outraged Los Lobos fans: sorry -- I didn't intend to damn by faint praise. The band played a hell of a set. And the audience obviously enjoyed it. Me -- I was there to hear Leo. And I gotta say, Conrad does bear a passing resemblance to Dick Armey, save the perpetually sour expression Armey seems to wear.

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