Few champion guitarslingers place their tricks, technique and pure performance savvy on such intimate display as Reeves Gabrels did last night at the Green Lantern. The ‘90s axeman for David Bowie and current guitar chieftain for The Cure, Gabrels let a handful of die hard fans literally stand by his side during a loose but musically ferocious set that blasted away for nearly two hours.
Bolstered by a power trio called the Imaginary Friends that included Louisville-bred five string bassist Kevin Hornback and drummer/harmony vocalist Marc Pisapia, Gabrels employed very elemental designs – namely, basic rock, pop and blues melodies – to ignite solos and jams of far greater complexity.
Show opening run-throughs of Continue and Wish You Were Her set the show’s pace with tight trio interplay, a guitar sound full of bright and exact tone and a performance attitude that, while extremely focused, seemed open and playful.
It was during skirmishes like Zero Effect, one of six tunes performed off the new Reeves Gabrels and his Imaginary Friends album, that the guitarist seriously opened up. Though the core of the tune was built around an elemental riff of pure pop intention (the Aerosmith hit Sweet Emotion came to mind), the music bloomed into an extended jam of lighter and neatly layered psychedelia.
Ditto for the show closing Yesterday’s Gone (from Gabrels’ 1999 solo album Ulysses) that worked off a bouncing groove to a create a richly textured ambience that seemed to disengage and float above the tune’s rhythmic structure as the music progressed.
The setlist served as an impressive retrospective of sorts, too. It reached back to the punkish brawl of Bus Stop, a work co-penned with Bowie for the 1989 self-titled debut record by Tin Machine, but also wound its way through the rugged power trio exchanges of Problem (from Gabrels’ first solo record, 1995’s The Sacred Squall of Now) and a radical transformation of the country chestnut Bright Lights Big City (rewired for the Imaginary Friends record) that mutated into a serving of turbulent, purposeful blues.
Such were the delights that surfaced as a guitar titan let fans get up close and personal.