Kottke's show spiced with sweet stories

by Thomas Gandy and Jenalia Moreno

Daily Cougar Staff

Watching folk guitar player and singer Leo Kottke perform is a a strange experience. He mixes odd, yet hilarious, anecdotes with pure musical ability.

As far as ability is concerned, Kottke is top notch. His finger picking on the guitar is phenomenal. He has speed, accuracy and finesse. He can also demonstrate this picking style on a 12-string guitar, which is by no means an easy task, setting Kottke far beyond most players.

Most of Kottke's songs are instrumentals, but he also sings well. His lyrics, like his performance, are strange. For example, he compares a boy's face to a walnut in one song.

What is most entertaining about Kottke's performance is not just his talent on the guitar, but the anecdotes he tells between songs. He stops several times in mid-sentence, plays a short, technically impressive riff and tells another story, only to end with something like, "Oh ... well, never mind; that story was about as interesting as me telling you how much I paid for groceries last week."

He told the audience on Wednesday at Rockefeller's about how he was petrified of quicksand, even though he lived in Wyoming, and about his father, who can nod off to sleep while standing up.

He took on a casual tone when talking to the audience. He seemed shy about the audience's applause after he finished performing, even though he has toured worldwide with such guitar greats as Joe Pass and Paco de Lucia. He stood up, smiled at the audience and just walked offstage after his encore performance.

From his more than 26 albums (his first recorded when he was just 23 years old) he played audience favorites such as "Pamela Brown," "Cripple Creek," "My Father's Face" and "Little Martha."

This tour is supporting his latest album recorded in April 1995, Live. When he played on Jan. 20, 1995, he was still autographing his albums " `94." This seems fitting for him, a man whose music is not dated. One of the songs he played Wednesday was one of the first songs he ever wrote.

All oddities aside, Kottke is a flawless guitar player, a master of his trade and a must-see, even if you are unfamiliar with his material. You will enjoy the music and get a good laugh as well. Check him out next time he plays at Rockefeller's, or sample any of his more than 26 albums.

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