David Lindley, Hugh's Room, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, July 18, 2005

It had been a long day. We set out early, wishing to try out guitars and shop for CDs in the big city, before the show. My friend Wayne (songwriter and producer) and his pal Gary (songwriter and guitarist) had arrived at my house at about 10:30 a.m., and my wife said, "You guys! You're like a bunch of little kids off on a campout! Have FUN!"

We hit the road, forty miles to Toronto, and checked out a half dozen guitar shops, another half dozen used CD stores, and stopped for lunch, and dinner . . . it was ninety degrees. Humidity HIGH! My back was still sore from a gardening accident a week or so ago, so I was walking with the cane I brought back from Ireland with me. We arrived at Hugh's Room early enough, we thought. But as we entered, the waiter said, "These are the only seats I have left for three people together."

It was a sold-out show, and many had arrived early to enjoy the concert/dinner special. He was pointing at three bar stools, behind a table, at the back of the large room. He looked at my cane, and shrugged his shoulders as I said, "I can't sit on a stool for three hours!" "This is all I've got!" he replied. "Well, I'll try!" I shrugged.

After ten minutes I gave up and took a walk out to the bar to stretch my wounded back. Apparently Wayne spoke to the waiter, alerting him to the fact that pissing off the reviewer from Green Man Review was probably not the best idea, and before you knew it we were moved to a set of chairs closer to the stage, with good sight-lines and most importantly . . . backs! Aah!

The stage at Hugh's Room is set in the corner, with the tables spread out in an arc around it. There are three levels. We were on the second, but all seats are decent, except for those high barstools wedged into no-man's land and designed to utilize every bit of space to maximize income. Six dollar beers and $25 dinners on top of the $30 cover charge, and maximize becomes a key word pretty quickly!

The show didn't start on time and an opening act had been added without any advance notice. Local songwriter Noah Zacharin took the stage, mumbled an introduction, and then started a song which sounded a bit like "Folsom Prison Blues" . . . "This isn't a Johnny Cash song," he corrected, and then took that opening in a whole new direction. It sure wasn't a Johnny Cash song! Zacharin is a startling guitar player, reminding Gary and me of Richard Thompson, but he needs to work on enunciation and vocal projection as I couldn't understand a word he said during his short set.

A brief intermission followed during which the stage was set for David Lindley. Two bouzoukis, a couple of Weissenborns, an electric oud, and three different acoustic guitars were set in a circle around a chair and a microphone. All this for one guy!

The room started to heat up. The outside temperature was surpassed by the couple hundred warm bodies huddled together in Hugh's Room. Finally Lindley appeared, garbed in a subtle (for him) polyester shirt and a pair of dark bell-bottoms. He asked how we liked the weather. Told us that where he came from, (Claremont, California), it was 107! Did a brief George Dubya impression, "No such thing as global warming...it's just bad science!" Then sat down and plugged in a bouzouki and played "National Holiday." We were in for some fine picking!

Between songs, Mr. Dave's patter was hilarious. Whether telling tales of Warren Zevon writing songs while driving in his Corvette (with recording gear and rhythm machines set up in the passenger seat, these were real road songs!) or describing the wonders of backstage food in a Dublin theatre, he had the audience rolling on the floor! And between the comedy . . . some of the most wonderful guitar playing you've ever heard. Lindley's specialty is slide guitar, and he delivered a master class on the two Weissenborns, but he's equally gifted at getting really "nasty" sounds out of any stringed instrument!

If you've ever admired the stinging slide guitar on a Jackson Browne song, or a fiddle solo, or some other exotic instrument being played on any number of records . . . it's probably been added by David Lindley. As he took up the handmade electric oud, and told the story of calling up Ry Cooder to say, "You gotta hear this, man!" you could only wonder how he manages to coax such raunchy music out of a 3500 year old instrument from Turkey. Of course, his is custom made with pickups and a flat-back instead of the customary bowl . . . but wow! that thing rocks!

The late Warren Zevon is one of Mr. Dave's favourite songwriters, and Lindley played on many of his records. He paid tribute to Zevon by playing three of his songs Monday night. "The Indifference of Heaven," "Seminole Bingo," (which was prefaced by a delightful tale of driving through Florida) and the encore tune (a Lindley standard) "Play It All Night." He also covered J.J.Cale (who drinks even more coffee than Mr. Dave!) with a languid version of "Tijuana," Professor Longhair with "Her Mind Is Gone," old folk song "Little Sadie," and a reggaefied version of Danny O'Keefe's "Jimmy Hoffa Memorial Building Blues."

Lindley is able to create the illusion that he is not alone on stage, you hear bass, rhythm, and lead, all coming from one player, and he plays so rhythmically that he doesn't need a drummer! He's amazing to watch, and if you're a guitar player yourself (as more than half the audience was) you'll be staring with your mouth open at the feats of agility performed with a metal bar on steel strings!

His own songwriting is based in folk-blues structures, with lyrics that continue the stand-up comedy act. "Cat Food Sandwiches" tells the true story of a lunch he was served at a concert one night; and "When a Man Gets Boobs" discusses a common problem found among men of a certain age. Many of whom were present at Hugh's Room!

Hugh's Room will never be one of my favourite venues, although they do have a remarkable slate of performers lined up. However, once we settled in, and the show began, David Lindley gave us more than our money's worth. An extraordinary display of string-wizardry, with lots of laughs to boot!

To read other reviews of David Lindley's work that have appeared in The Green Man Review, click here.


[David Kidney]