Rock&Folk (France), April 2019Review of live solo show in Paris March 9th 2019
In the shadows of his Stetson, Gary Lucas's mischievous gaze sparkles as he begins his set with a few picking pieces, interspersed, as he proceeds, with digressions on his career and the encounters that have marked him. Alone or flanked by guests, including Jean-Philippe Rykiel on the keyboard, ideal counterpoint of his guitar game while he performs, he channeled for two hours Chinese pop of the 1930s, the Allegro of the Czech composer Janacek, classics of the Rolling Stones and his hero Skip James, not to mention the detours expected by Captain Beefheart's rough blues and Jeff Buckley's celestial chants.
Review of live solo score for Erich Von Stroheim's "The Wedding March", premiered in Paris 3/1/19Commissioning a live score from Gary Lucas to accompany Erich von Stroheim's "The Wedding March" was something of a bet, as it marked a move from his beloved fantastic cinema into melodrama territory. But it being Stroheim, the melodrama had to be weird. Gary's guitar-playing is bold and precise—a perfect match for the director's temperament, and his inspirations beautifully echo the mood of this sardonic film streaked with irreconcilable sentiments. Viennese but with an attitude!
—Frederic Bonnaud, Directeur general de la Cinematheque francaise
Review of Sunset Jazz Club performance, Paris, 3/9/19It was cramped and crowded and hot and jam-packed at Sunset in Paris, just as one would imagine a popular Paris jazz venue would be on a Saturday night. But stereotypes and convention stop there. The evening was billed as "Gary Lucas & guests, a tribute to Jeff Buckley and Captain Beefheart." And here, the cliche "for lack of a better name" kicks in gloriously. The name of the show itself and the history behind it raises eyebrows in wonder. Indeed, Gary Lucas was a close collaborator, bandmate, and co-creator with two artists as iconic and diverse as Beefheart and Buckley. He is credited as "magical guitarness" on Buckley's opus, having mentored Jeff and written the music and those enchanting riffs for Grace & Mojo Pin. He was in Beefheart's Magic Band too. But to call the evening a tribute to "just" those two artists would only be small piece of the picture. In addition to Buckley and Beefheart, we heard blues-rock, country-blues, reinterpretations of a classic Czech composer and Shanghai pop songs of the 1930s. A bit of waltz and a nod to cinema happened somewhere in between, along with Gary's own Gods and Monsters songs.
The ensemble on the tiny stage varied from solo to seven with a total of 8 musicians (Gary included) gracing the stage at some point in the two exhilarating 45-minute sets that flew by. While the evening was primarily genre-defying and only tangentially jazzy, special guest Jean-Philippe Rykiel did add some serious jazz street cred to the mix on piano and an instrument that was part keyboard part wind instrument whose name I know not.
All this to say it was astonishing and complemented marvelously by Gary's good-humored and fascinating anecdotes. The New York Times once profiled him saying something like the music business didn't quite know what to do with him. It's unfortunate that such virtuosity combined with purposefully curated and inventive eclecticism is not better compensated commercially. We often become fond of artists who define themselves and never truly redefine themselves, producing new music that sits well within an easy-to-market "catalogue", evolving yet not transforming or taking risks. Gary clearly didn't choose that path, and tonight, every soul squished into that hot room was thrilled he opted to trailblaze instead.