January 27, 2013

Concert #664 - Al Stewart at McCabe's Guitar Shop (January 26, 2013)

I have learned over the years not to expect any surprises from an Al Stewart concert, as any of his appearances are pretty much like the ones before. So how come that I keep going back every time he plays McCabe's? The answer is simple: I just can't stay home and deny myself the pleasure of spending an evening in the company of this witty British gentleman who also happens to make great music. Never mind that he's in his high sixties - he still sounds like Al Stewart and his exquisite sense of humor is as good as ever. And with a body of work as vast as his, I will always get to hear a couple of obscure gems and learn a thing or two about folks as disparate as Brian Jones, Warren Harding and Carl Dobkins, Jr.

Last night's show at McCabe's kicked off with a three-song set delivered by Dave Nachmanoff, Al's long-time collaborator. With instantly likeable songs such as "Fragile Thing" and "Certain Distance", Dave received a good reception from the sold-out crowd.

Al Stewart's set started with a bouncy rendition of "House Of Clocks" and from that moment on, it was one great song after another. Also one funny remark after another, as Al was in a particularly funny mood last night.

Al Stewart (right) and Dave Nachmanoff at McCabe's
Al and Dave are one heck of a team. Always in tune both musically and humor-wise, they clearly enjoyed each other's company and their fun contaminated everyone present. Dave contributed a few epic guitar solos, the ones I liked the best were the extended intro to "On The Border" and the outro that concluded "Gina In The Kings Road". Ever since my first encounter with Dave Nachmanoff in 2004, I have witnessed his growth from a simple sideman to a true partner who now possesses his own musical credibility. Kudos to him.

The set list
By the way, O.T.B. in the set list stands for "On The Border", Y.O.T.C. is "Year Of The Cat", both played last night, but we didn't get to hear P.O.V., which stands for "Palace Of Versailles".

After a short intermission, the show resumed with three more songs by Dave. Al opened his second set with "Warren Harding", complete with a few comments about the intellect of current and past US presidents. "Katherine Of Oregon", "Midas Shadow" and "Soho (Needless To Say)" were my favorites from the second half of the show.

Nothing was going to stop Al from having fun. In response to Dave's formulaic introduction "And without any further ado, here's Mr. Al Stewart", Al took the stage and, with a smile on his face, said "I want more ado". Minutes later, while casually mentioning Lonnie Donegan, Al launched into an impromptu (but sadly abbreviated) rendition of "Rock Island Line", arguably Lonnie's best-known song. Later yet and jokingly, of course, Al took credit for having pioneered the genre of rap, a claim he substantiated with a few lines from "Soho" delivered rap-style, to the amusement of the audience.

For their encore, Al and Dave first played "Sheila Won't Be Coming Home", a song co-written by Dave and Al, followed by a Peter White instrumental composition with lyrics added "after the fact" by Al Stewart. Both sounded great.

All in all, my small group of friends had a great time and so did I.

Last night's Al Stewart concert, the seventh one I have attended, came twenty-two years after I first saw him live, also at McCabe's. Back in 1991, I remember thinking that Al Stewart was old. Since then, my perception of age has changed dramatically, thanks primarily to the longevity of countless musicians, among them Al Stewart himself.

Al Stewart autographing merchandise after the show
Dave Nachmanoff at the merch table
Al Stewart fans lining up at McCabe's

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