First off, I saw Chris Rea, a British blues singer/songwriter who enjoyed huge popular acclaim in the Nineteen-Eighties and early Nineties with a string of hits, with the biggest being the superlative 'Road to Hell', inspired by the notoriously log-jammed British motorway circling London, the M25. Chris, now in his sixties and somehow managing to survive minus a pancreas, turned out a fantastic gig with numbers from all eras of his career. His slide playing was superb and his singing was as good as it's ever been. Of course 'Road to Hell' was played - I doubt Chris would be allowed to leave the stage without playing it - but also many of his best work was included. A personal favourite of mine, 'Stainsby Girls', which was my introduction to Chris many years ago, was played.
Then a couple of days later I saw US blues guitarist Joe Bonnamassa in concert along with 3000 other fans. I was lucky enough to be in the front row, opposite the left hand PA speaker set up, and can confirm that Joe is not only very, very good but is also extremely loud. As with Chris Rea's gig, Joe ran through his repertoire from his early recordings through to his more recent releases. For those of you who know Joe's work he turned out what I believe to be the best version of 'Sloe Gin' yet, beating his album recording in my opinion, a view I don't offer lightly as 'Sloe Gin' is one of my favourite tracks of all time. 'Dust Bowl' was just mind blowing and he performed 'Django', possibly one of the best blues instrumentals, as a solo. Admittedly this number normally only includes a drummer as well as Joe and I feel that it was a mistake to omit the drum contribution, but Joe did demonstrate his virtuoso technique to the crowd.
I do also dabble in the guitar, but I have to say I'm not very good. I'm not being modest here, I'm truly awful - when I play, I want to leave the room. Of course the guitar is one of those wannabe things that we all hanker after, and many of us fail to master. But for many aspiring guitarists there has recently been the opportunity to play at playing, using the Guitar Hero plastic facsimile guitars and the on-screen prompts. No guitar player of any level would suggest that the Guitar Hero approach is likely to improve a guitarist's skill level although a few have grudgingly suggested that it is a way to get youths interested in playing the instrument.
But it looks like the concept is about to mature. Ubisoft have announced that they are going to release a product named 'Rocksmith' in the autumn that will allow a real guitar to be connected to the game, with the result that the game player will be able to practise playing a real guitar while performing against a soundtrack while being guided on-screen on which notes to fret. The talk is that it will only connect to X Box and Playstation consoles - there will be a Wii version but apparently that won't allow a guitar to be connected.
It sounjds like a cracking idea and one I might consider trying. I suspect I'll always be an awful guitarist and I doubt I'll ever aspire to being a shadow of Mr Rea and Mr Bonnamassa, but if I can just get to the point that I don't want to leave the room as well, then I guess I'll have done well.
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