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Mike Keneally Ripped My Head Off in London

Mike Keneally

April 14, 2013 Blog, Reviews 4 Comments

Mike Keneally

Mike Keneally Band live at the Borderline in Soho, London.

I’m writing this from a hotel room in Bloomsbury, London and it’s the morning after my head was ripped off. Ripped off in the sense that last night I had one of the most profoundly intense musical experiences of my 42 years on planet earth – I saw Mike Keneally Band live at the Borderline in Soho, London. (The “ripped my head off” thing is an old saying describing the effects of attending a Mike Keneally show).

The first time I was exposed to Mike Keneally was when Zappa’s Universe (the celebration of Frank Zappa’s 50th birthday) aired on Swedish television some time around 1991. I had heard Keneally on FZ’s live albums from the 1988 tour, but never really understood his greatness until that evening when I saw him play guitar, keys and sing Zappa’s classic material. I was floored. Not just because his playing was flawless, but he really brought out the essence of the music and performed it with a genuine Frank Zappa attitude. With eyebrows and everything. A year or so later, Keneally’s debut album “Hat” came out and I was hooked. I followed his Guitar Player Column and bought practically everything he released on CD and DVD. So I guess you could say I’m a hardcore Mike Keneally fanboy.

Rick Musallam

Rick Musallam

I have seen Keneally perform as a sideman twice before, the first time was some 20 years ago when he played guitar with Z (Dweezil and Ahmet Zappa) and the second was with Steve Vai in 2000. Both were really good shows, but reading all of the tour diaries at www.keneally.com always made me very jealous of all the people in the US who get to see his shows on a regular basis. To my knowledge this was the first time Mr Keneally played a show with his own band in Europe, so the very minute I got the news I grabbed a ticket and booked a flight to London. I believe if you look up the phrase “no-brainer” in a dictionary you will find that exact description, with my face next to it.

So how about the show?

The Borderline is just around the corner from Denmark Street (where all the music shops are situated). And the show was every bit as fantastic as I had expected it to be. Apart from a selection of tracks from Keneally’s latest album Wing Beat Fantastic (more pop-oriented music co-written by Andy Partridge of XTC fame), the setlist featured lots of old songs such as Frozen Beef, Lightning Roy, Tranquillado, Backwards Deb, Dolphins Medley and ended with a hard-hitting version of Cause of Breakfast. Mike Keneally is a fantastic guitarist, and even though the music is mind-bogglingly advanced he’s far from the shredder-type or “guitarist’s guitarist” you’d normally associate with “instrumental rock” or “fusion”. It’s his originality, unexpected harmonic and melodic turns and sense of humor that amazes me the most.

The band consisting of Bryan Beller (bass), Rick Musallam (guitar) and Joe Travers (drums) is world-class, but that didn’t stop them from having fun on stage. Drummer Joe Travers after a (in his opinion) sub-par performance: “For the YouTubers in the audience, that is NOT the one to post, OK?”. So I won’t post that.

I can’t wait until the next time. Mike, please come and play in Sweden, will you?

Per

 

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