Leo Kottke: The Master Visited Fairbanks
Six and twelve string guitar virtuoso Leo Kottke brought his show to Fairbanks Friday night, selling out the
Pickle Barrel Pioneer Park Civic Center. Kottke’s nearly two hour long show featured selections from old and new albums, ranging from a wonderful, bluesy version of “Corina, Corina” to Duane Allman to an encore featuring Eddie Reeves’ and Alex Harvey’s “Rings.” And a wide selection of his own compositions.
WC first saw Kottke live in 1972 or 1973 at a bar in Wilmette, Illinois. We were both much younger and had more and darker hair. Back then, Kottke played a more percussive, finger-picking style. But even then the man could set a guitar on fire, with spectacular runs. While he can and did play slide guitar, he can also get slide notes with just his fingers. And his dexterity is amazing. He commonly plucks notes with his two middle fingers on his left hand while chording with the other two fingers and thumb. That night in Wilmette, in response to a rowdy crowd, he played “My Guitar Gently Weeps” left-handed, just to show he could.
Then and now, Kottke filled the breaks between some songs with stories, some of them bizarre, and one liners that sometimes link to the stories and sometimes are complete digressions.
“I rolled a nurse for these shoes.”
“Sometimes my feet just go slipping off on their own.”
“He came out for an encore but I think all he did was tune the guitar.”
His stories Friday night included his German grandparents, a man with half a cerebellum, learning to play his first instrument, the trombone and many more. But mainly a Kottke show is about beautifully played, eclectic guitar music.
In the mid-1980s, Kottke’s aggressive playing style led to severe tendonitis. To keep playing, he had to switch to the more classical style that he uses now. WC wants to be clear about this: at the midpoint of his career, Kottke taught himself to play guitar a completely different way. And still remained a virtuoso. And he showed it Friday night.
It was a delightful evening. Thanks to Leo Kottke for coming to Fairbanks again. And thanks to Mace and Trudy’s Acoustic Adventures for sponsoring the show.