Review and photos by Patrick Dunn
Tunings, Tapping and Capos, Oh My!
An instrumental guitar performance draws in a very specific audience. Narrowing the scope further to only acoustic guitar makes the show even more niche. The premier spot to experience a concert of this nature in downtown Minneapolis is without question the Dakota, due to its intimate layout, superb sound capabilities and upscale dining & drink options. All these elements paired with a couple hours of mind-blowing finger style guitar wizardry at the hands of both Andy McKee and supporting act Trevor Gordon Hall made for one heck of an enjoyable evening.
At first glance, the Dakota stage appeared emptier than normal, but for guitar enthusiasts assembling throughout the room, the two Greenfield acoustics dimly lit beneath the blue neon backdrop held plenty of significance. Andy McKee walked on stage and grabbed his signature series G4, plucked a few notes to confirm proper tuning and got right down to the business of tapping out the stylized rhythmic pattern that leads into the verses on Common Ground. Although considered a top innovator in this genre, he made a point to call out some early influencers in his playing with versions of Ragamuffin (Michael Hedges) and Clockshop by Minnesota native Billy McLaughlin.
McKee received an encouraging response when asking if the audience shared in his appreciation for ‘80s music, which he happened to grow up on. He talked about being inspired by artists who’d constructed arrangements of tunes we are used to hearing performed by a full band, adapted down to play out from a single acoustic guitar. McKee’s spirited versions of Africa (Toto) and Everybody Wants to Rule the World (Tears for Fears) stirred up plenty of wow-factor, and also gave a renewed appreciate for how infectious these melodies are and how important it is to capture each component that we are expecting to hear to make it feel authentic and complete.
The second guitar on display, a Greenfield baritone with a shiny green finish did also end up getting a good workout. The lower pitch of this instrument provides a range that seems more suitable for expression on some compositions. For example, McKee said he now prefers to play Art of Motion on this guitar even though it was written in standard scale. The big surprise that won me over on this idea was a tastefully crafted version of Purple Rain (Prince), which was a standout.
McKee welcomed Trevor Gordon Hall back out to perform three additional songs as a duo and it felt like a separate mini concert. Their styles and skill complement each other exceptionally well and there was mention of a possible future album together. For My Father was one of the evening’s prettiest numbers, which led into a perfect ending with Never Grow Old.