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The Luminaire, Kilburn, London, 15 April 2008
Much like those pivotal gigs back in the 70's when Little Feat and Lynyrd Skynyrd played ground breaking UK debut gigs, Stanley Clarke opened a new world for the bass and Stanley Jordan brought guitar tapping to a new level, Monte Montgomery played the kind of show that suggests his powerful use of the acoustic guitar marks him out as a rising star of the six string.
Monte slipped into London almost unnoticed and during the course of just under two hours played with such intensity and outright brilliance that every person in the room knew they had witnessed something very special.
And while name Monte Montgomery might previously have conjured up images for people of a country picker sitting on his porch in the Deep South, then geography aside, they couldn't have been more wrong.
For while Monte hails from Birmingham Alabama and brought with his a superlative Louisiana rhythm section of David Piggott on bass and Phil Bass on drums, his playing style is bound only by the need to being expression to the context of his songs.
Perhaps unsurprisingly there were funky tonal elements of say Sonny Landreth and occasional jazzy inflections of Carl Verheyan, and even the ability of Albert Lee to make one guitar sound like three, but these were fleeting musical references in a gig that announced a new unique creative force in the guitar world.
After slipping from the shadows to occupy his position stage right, Monte took us on a sinuous melodic journey with so many flighty solos with delightful tonal inflection, and startling harmonics, that the eyes struggled to keep up with what the ears were telling us.
Monte simply made the guitar an extension of himself. Where poets use the cadence of language and where mime artists use the power of visual expression, Monte simply uses the full range of aural possibilities offered by his acoustic guitar.
What makes him so startlingly different of course is that his acoustic sounds more like an electric guitar but with much more subtle and tonal delights. The foot pedals and array of effects remain wholly subservient to the task at hand, acting as a conduit to uncovering some magical melodies, sometime in a surprising pop setting.
Monte set about a catalogue of impressive songs that shifted from the strong melody of 'Wishing Well' to the West Coast feel and Fleetwood Mac style chorus of 'Moonlight Tango'. At the end of a memorable finish, Monte self deprecatingly mumbled, 'I'm never sure what we are going to do on the outro' - a startling revelation given the audience was all but breathless at the mesmerising runs and perfunctory ending we had just witnessed.
Monte further worked up a reggae inflected groove while adding some angular notes and induced some stop time whoops from the crowd on an unannounced number that also drew spontaneous applause for some startling volleys of quite beautiful notes.
The climactic closing crescendo beautifully topped and tailed a master class in guitar playing in the context of one song.
Astounding playing aside, Monte has a keen eye for an accessible song being unafraid to showcase his Jackson Brown style ballads like 'Loves Last Holiday' and the first encore 'Rescue Me', while on the other hand he slipped effortlessly into some full tilt rocking, referencing Steve Vai and Satriani with some incredible playing on the hard eyed funk of 'Shock'.
Monte Montgomery really is something special He leads an acoustic power trio confident in the knowledge that he has the songs and the vocal style to flesh out a wide ranging set. What makes him that bit special is that unlike so many guitar shredders, his solos remain an integral part of the song.
He finished the night in solo mode bringing every nuance of his mesmerising playing style to bear on each verse of the respective song. Perhaps he only really indulged himself in a mid set rendition of Mark Knopfler's
'Romeo and Juliet' and even then he brought subtle light and shade and
interesting new possibilities to an existing classic of the genre.
Monte Montgomery, remember the name, the acoustic guitar was
never in more capable hands.
Review by Pete Feenstra
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