Paul Gilbert @ Islington Academy

5th November 2010

After a last minute venue downgrade from KoKo, we found ourselves in an epic queue streaking through an Upper street shopping complex. The fact that 90% of sold tickets were box office collection provided this early stumbling block. After finally gaining entry we ascended to the main arena. I was impressed with its compact size, balcony area, aesthetics, cleanliness and ample stage size. It made for a very likeable venue which is on the firmly in the mid-sized venue market in London, holding approx 800 people.

Not having been to a gig on a Friday night for ages, I had forgotten proceedings run mega eaarly as tonight’s show kicked out at 10pm! No sooner then we had settled into a nice cozy spot in prime viewing position, Paul Gilbert emerged with his band and wasted no time in proving why he is held in such high regard amongst guitar aficionados.

Gilbert & Band

After donning his trademark headphones Paul began to showcase the skills he is recognised for. Shredding his way up and down the fretboard, his hands were merely a bur of high octane speed and accuracy on songs from his latest album Fuzz Universe. This was just incredible stuff to behold, especially as he made it look sooo incredibly easy. He effortlessly glided through some astonishingly technical pieces of superbly composed instrumental guitar music in a wide range of styles ranging from jazz to classical and hard rock to metal. Gilbert himself was an instantly lovable character and his modesty was clear to see. The wide eyed look of jubilation and joy on his face when the crowd applauded was one of true honesty and appreciation.

Paul Gilbert

Tonight was mainly focused on his playing, but there was so much more to this show than just sheer guitar virtuosity. It was surprising for an act of this nature to have another great guitar player sharing the spotlight, but that’s exactly what happened. Paul and auxiliary guitarist Tony Spinner played many a blues jam over the night as they traded riff for riff in epic guitar battles, showing off many skills including speedy sweep picking, harmonics, double tapping and soloing picking with their teeth.

Teeth Soloing

The choice of set was also a master stroke. Instead of focusing solely on himself, Paul picked songs with/without vocals and those which were transcribed onto 2 guitars. With he and Stringer playing superb duelling solos and brilliant combined harmonies they were reminiscent of a top form Thin Lizzy. Also there were plenty of cover versions thrown into the mix ranging from blues masters Muddy Waters I Want To Be Loved, BB King’s Rock Me Baby, Blue Oyster Cult’s Don’t Fear The Reaper, Light My Fire from the Doors and Ac/Dc’s Go Down. Now when I say cover, Paul doesn’t just repeat a song note for note. He adds a sprinkling of his special genius, feeding in some truly stunning guitar hooks and melodies throughout as well as placing his own spin on electrifying guitar soloing.

Gilbert & Spinner

I was personally delighted when he played I’m Not Addicted the absolute highlight from his collaborative album America with singer Freddie Nelson. This blasting punk does speed metal tune has bundles of melody and a cracking simple vocal hook that’s mega-catchy. Other infectious material was aired as Paul turned back the clocks to perform some of tracks from his numerous 80’s bands,Mr Big’s Green Tinted Sixties Mind, Racer X’s Scarified & Technical Difficulties, Despite their cheesy nature it was both fun and really hard not to enjoy.

A simply stunning showcase from one of the worlds top exponents of guitar virtuosity!

1 Comment

  1. What sucks about most blogs (versus websites) is that it’s impossible to find a “contact me” page for the author(s), which leaves the more vocal readers little choice but to make comments like this:

    Paul Gilbert’s mercenarial axeman is Tony Spinner. That would be a typo in your (very cool and highly enjoyable!) article, but it’s kind-of important to correct, because without the correct last name on him, he’s impossible to look up so we can listen to his back catalogue! He’s an impressive blues guitarist, and was in Toto.

    My contact / about the author page is fairly buried, but it’s there.


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