“I’m sure you won’t be hearing that on 5fm”, quipped Tony Cox after his blistering harmonics driven guitar piece. That much was true. His brand of guitar playing, which flies against formulaic contemporary pop arrangements, won’t gain him much plugging on popular radio. Not that the man isn’t talented. On the contrary, this is a man who has clearly mastered his instrument. In a topsy – turvy world where famous ‘artists’ are devoid of much real talent and where pop monotony forms the musical standard, International Guitar Night was somewhat of a revelation.
South African guitar duo Errol and Alvin Dyers kicked off the proceedings with their rendition of the timeless Puerto Rican standard, Besame Mucho. The pair also thrilled with their delightful take on smooth jazz veteran, Earl Klugh’s Vonetta. They completed their set on a high note with an energetic syncopated ragtime number, leaving the audience eager for more guitar magic.
This magic came in the form of Tony Cox. An unconventional guitarist, Cox leans towards being ‘a musician for musicians’ with certain of his pieces initially coming across as discordant, dissonant and technical, challenging musical norms and structures but at the same time slowly baiting the listener into rapturous moments of sublime guitar playing. His metal, Celtic jazz and harmonic prowess make for a unique auditory experience.
The International Guitar Night (IGN) headliner, Australian guitar virtuoso Michael Fix, treated the crowd in the final musical set, swaying masterfully between the genres of jazz, blues, Latin and classical. Opening his set with Sergio Mendes’ Mas Que Nada, Fix took us on a journey with his staggering guitar abilities navigating the way. Notable renditions of classics such as Toto’s Africaand his performance of Men at Work’s Land Down Under as a nod to his homeland were a treat. If those weren’t enough to drop jaws, Fix stunned the crowd with the second part of his set, tackling classical giants like Bach and Brahms with alarming precision, not missing a note as his fingers became a blur on the fret board. At the end of his set we could do nothing else but give him a standing ovation.
IGN wasn’t a night of fancy stage lighting, synchronized dance moves or the other charms that distract us from recognising if an artist has talent. All these gimmicks were stripped away and musical essence was what remained. The focus here was firmly on the music, and on the amazing instruments played to perfection by truly gifted and genuinely interesting artists.
If you missed the night, there is another one scheduled for summer, and you can bet that I’ll be there again.
Michael Fix headlined at Tony Cox’s International Guitar night on 27 and 28 July at the Baxter Theatre.
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