Warning – This is not a drill (excuse the pun). Guitar maestro Paul Gilbert recently returned to the UK in support of his impressive 15th studio album Behold Electric Guitar.
And whilst the axeman extraordinaire may have left his Makita power drill back home in the US, he proved at the Riverside Newcastle that he’s no one-trick pony.
Now the versatile guitarist may not have a voice like Robert Plant, Ronnie James Dio or David Lee Roth for that matter. As a lead guitarist, he doesn’t need to. However, with this album and current run, Gilbert had an urge to play the role of a 70’s rock frontman. As the old saying goes if you can’t beat them join them.
Equipped with his trusty Ibanez, there was no fanfare as the Mr Big axeman hit the stage and got straight down to business. Gilbert opened the show with his feisty standard Blues For Rabbit before kicking things up a notch with the appropriately titled Havin’ It.
The vast majority of the setlist was lifted from the Behold Electric Guitar, with near enough the whole record featuring. One of the early highlights of the show came during Gilbert’s blistering performance of Green Tinted Sixties Mind. This being a track which pleased the many Mr Big fans in attendance.
In Newcastle Gilbert and his Ibanez went into their musical battle together, and the pair most certainly were up for the fight. None more so than during the US-based guitar God’s cover of The Theme from Rocky.
Some of the tracks featured on Gilbert’s latest offering have been around a while. Let That Battery Die originally started as an idea for a Mr Big song that never quite came to fruition.
Each track on the record, and also in the set showcased the many different styles and facets of his artistry. From the Jazzy tones of Everywhere That Mary Went to the funky yet furious Sir You need To Calm Down and the emotive I Own a Building all representing a different style of his playing. The aforementioned track also featured some stunning slide work from Gilbert.
And this new found love of the slide has given the gifted guitarist a new voice so to speak. The way he manages to intertwine lead guitar with his slide guitar melody is truly remarkable. This, in particular, is very effective during the latter stages of the show where Paul delivered a selection of classic rock covers.
Can you imagine being able to play both Eddie Van Halen’s solos, whilst simultaneously grappling on the guitar with David Lee Roth’s vocal parts? Well, this actually happened during a stupendous take on Van Halen’s Runnin’ With The Devil – one of the many highlights of the show. Gilbert adopted a similar approach to George Harrison’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps, U2’s Pride (In The Name of Love) and Rainbow’s Still I’m Sad, during a thoroughly entertaining covers spot.
The final track of this exhibition of guitar mastery came via Love Is The Saddest Thing. This being by all accounts one of the saddest songs Gilbert ever wrote – well at least for ten minutes or so before he got tired of the idea, and made it not so sad anymore with the aid of some ferocious fretwork.
Watching Paul Gilbert perform is nothing short of breathtaking. His expressive yet emotive playing and unrivalled creativity put him in a league of his own. When Paul plays, the guitar becomes a very extension of his being. The guitar and the guitarist become one. Gilbert not only plays fast but he plays from the heart.
Event Date: 17-Sept-2019