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Neue Westfalische (Germany), September 20, 2005
Shakespeare Gets the Blues
Jozef van Wissem and Gary Lucas meet at the Bunker Ulmenwall for an extraordinary concert.
by Eckart Schoenlau
PICTURE CAPTION: Jangles and scratches at the highest level: Gary
Lucas plays his slide guitar with unceasing energy.
Bielefeld. Two string instruments that acould hardly be more
different: one, a ten-string Renaissance lute with its full warm
sound, and the other, a National Steel guitar from the 1920's, made out
of metal, with a piercing hollow sound. As if the world of William
Shakespeare were to meet the American blues.
When they play together, the Dutchman Jozef van Wissem (Renaissance
lute) and the American guitarist Gary Lucas leave temporal and spatial
boundaries behind them. For four years they have been playing together
as a duo. They presented a concert of surprises to the public at the
Bunker Ulmenwall. With looping runs and broken chords, Jozef van
Wissem played alone, at first, on his filigreed instrument,
transcending all traditions.
When Gary Lucas then came on, with his metal guitar, the dazzling
pastel tone colors of the two instruments fit together perfectly.
Between the sharp sound of the slide guitar and the fine lute tones—they could risk anything. Caravan-like journeys and songs of every
type. Jackson Browne's "These Days," which was also sung by Andy
Warhol's muse Nico, shone forth in an unusual fresh light. Kraftwerk's
"Hall of Mirrors" was just as persuasively plucked as Led Zeppelin's
blues number "When the Levee Breaks."
Gary Lucas carried the second part of the concert alone, as a recital
session. Themes and songs from his gigantic repertoire popped up.
Perfect slide playing joined to virtuoso finger picking gave testimony
to his stature as a towering guitarist. What makes him even more
unique is the unceasing energy with which he can uninhibitedly jangle
and scratch, and so draw out humor and expression. Chinese pop hits
from the 1930's, blues standards, Jewish music—Gary Lucas interprets
everything on his guitar with unbounded energy.