Guthrie Govan Live At The Adelaide Guitar Festival
Adelaide is often known as the city of festivals, such is the proliferation of seasonal arts’ events in this modestly sized city. This past weekend saw the (rather awesome) Adelaide International Guitar Festival, which brings players from around the world, representing a wide variety of styles and genres. As a guitarist, I of course love […]
Adelaide is often known as the city of festivals, such is the proliferation of seasonal arts’ events in this modestly sized city. This past weekend saw the (rather awesome) Adelaide International Guitar Festival, which brings players from around the world, representing a wide variety of styles and genres.
As a guitarist, I of course love this kind of festival, though I have to admit, sometimes through gritted teeth, that guitar does not have as central a role in popular music as it did in my younger years.
There was a time when many pop songs (and most rock songs) had an obligatory guitar solo. And, there was even a place for instrumental guitar music as well and many of the heroes of pop and rock music where guitarists, often loved just as much, if not more for their guitar playing as for their singing or songwriting.
During my youth, many of the players I aspired to emulate, like Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, where highly technical players, known as “shredders” for their ability to “rip” the guitar apart with a flurry of (often very fast) notes. But, after Grunge Rock changed the landscape of popular music, the virtuoso player slipped out of the popular consciousness and became a musical anachronism.
Guthrie Govan is a new generation of shredder, who came to prominence as an educator in the UK and writer for guitar magazines. In recent years he has become better known for his live and studio work (although he only has one album, 2006’s Erotic Cakes, to his name) and his collaborations with boutique guitar and amplifier makers.
I met Govan in Hong Kong, at a Suhr guitar clinic and he struck me as a really authentic and rather sharp guy. On stage his persona is almost totally devoid of rock-star pretension and he introduces each song with a wonderfully self-deprecating kind of British humour.
And, the music he plays is not easy – much of it written in odd times signatures and employing lightning fast volleys of notes and throughly modern, complex harmonies.
Not that the sell-out crowd minded. In fact, it was a warm, receptive audience who seemed to tune in well to the at times challenging, at times fun and throughly entertaining set.
Govan ended, as is increasingly becoming the custom, by eschewing an encore and just encouraging the audience to applaud loudly before the final song. Not that it really mattered, because by the time he and his band took a bow, we had been treated to a thoroughly masterful showcase of all the reasons why Govan is considered by many to be the supreme “guitarist’s guitarist” a player others, myself included, look to for inspiration.
Trends in music are often cyclical and given the directions music has gone in recent years, it might well be time for the virtuoso guitar styles to come back into prominence.
Whether or not that happens, it was nice for one night to be transported back to the days when instrumental rock was a more popular thing, appearing everywhere from TV themes, to films, to video games and of course, on car stereos and home HiFi’s.
Govan is a brilliant player and a thoroughly likeable fellow. I do hope he graces us with another solo album soon.