For the lovers of real music International Guitar Night is a pure and rare experience. The setup of the show is simple – just a few guys who are extremely skilled at playing acoustic guitar. No embellishments, no pretence, no over-the-top stage setting or gimmicks; just what the title suggests – some of the best guitar players in the world staying true to what music really is. As MC Benjamin Moshatama of Fine Music Radio mentioned, in a time of chaos and calamity, when music has been reduced to thumping beats and heartthrob teens, it is a prize to find artists such as these three who still provide clean, uncorrupted music.
On the first night of this latest International Guitar Night series, Cape Town born Dave Baudains opened the show with a few mellow pieces which set the tone for the evening. His quick fingers impressed the audience, yet he seemed unaware of the impression he was making. Despite the size and grandeur of the Baxter Concert Hall, it felt as though we’d been invited into the homes of these musicians – a lazy Sunday afternoon feeling as though we were hanging out on the stoep while they reminisced and strummed. Each song had a story, an insight into a private musical diary. While there were some technical errors with the sound equipment, the audience simply didn’t mind as the atmosphere was so relaxed and the musicians were modest and without airs, unpretentious with unforced passion.
Tony Cox, the maestro behind IGN, performed a few old favourites including ‘Salty Towers’, ‘Invisible’ and ‘Slap Chips’, the stories behind each of which ranged from the political situations in South Africa and Zimbabwe to a place in Canada in which he met many musicians from around the world. His song ‘In the Distance’ was like a drink of fresh spring water.
Where Cox’s stature and long white hair made me think of Anthony Hopkins in Zorro, the headline act for the evening, Jon Gomm – barefoot and tattooed – reminded me of Chester Bennington of Linkin Park… though his music resembled nothing of the sort. His playing was mind-blowing. I have never seen someone get so many different sounds out of one guitar, let alone sing while using the guitar as percussion. Gomm’s unconventional ways put him firmly in the weird-but-cool star category, yet he comes across as utterly approachable, unafraid to express what he feels in each song, taking the audience with him. His tunes ranged from his own rendition of Romeo and Juliet in his song ‘Gloria’ to ‘Passionflower’, a song about a plant he had growing in his backyard. He also shared a song he had penned particularly for this, his first trip to Africa called ‘Dance of the Last Rhino’ which went down a storm with the audience.
Sitting in the audience, feeling privileged to be there, I came to realize that International Guitar Night is not a show to be held under technical scrutiny, neither is it exclusive to classical or guitar fundis. This is a show for anyone willing to open their minds to something pure and wholesome. It is extraordinarily refreshing to come across musicians as modest as Jon Gomm, Tony Cox and David Baudains, musicians who allow their skills to speak for them in an uncontaminated evening of wonderful music.
International Guitar Night runs at the Baxter Theatre Centre 8-13 July 2013, with US guitarist Preston Reed replacing Jon Gomm as the headline act for the last three nights.
“A refreshing experience.” Read our review on Preston Reed, Tony Cox and Guy Buttery at International Guitar Night.