Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Loopy, multi-layered guitar wizardry

Gordon Giltrap

Huntingdon Hall, Worcester
Saturday 13th January

People had been telling me for years that I should go and see Gordon Giltrap live. The publicity describes his show as one that "guarantees to enthral guitar aficionados, acoustic enthusiasts and music lovers in general" and there was no shortage of middle-aged men in the bar during the interval who could be overheard saying, "Yeah, well, I used to play a bit of guitar but, when I see Gordon, I think I may as well give up!"

We took our pews in Worcester's magnificent Huntingdon Hall – an 18th Century former Methodist church and surely the city's most atmospheric music venue. Sitting centre-stage surrounded by an array of guitars Giltrap worked his way through an impressive selection of tunes including the loopy, multi-layered 'The Dodo's Dream' and his homage to childhood seaside holidays 'On Camber Sands' with its rippling, dappled arpeggios. Complaining of temporary deafness in one ear due to a virus, he asked the audience to confirm that his favoured 'ping-pong' delay effect was working properly.

Some may think of Giltrap's music as slightly irrelevant, a remnant of the late 60s folk scene that wandered off the singer-songwriter route into the side-roads of 1970s instrumental prog-pop guitar wizardry. But he is a survivor and a reminder of that talented group of artists – and of that particular sound associated with the Transatlantic label, that included the likes of Bert Jansch, John Renbourn and Pentangle.

Not surprisingly, Giltrap saved 'Heartsong' (which made the top thirty in 1977) for the finale and encored with the dark, complex 'Lucifer's Cage', hopefully inspiring all those middle-aged lapsed guitarists to go home and dust off their instruments.


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Tony Gillam is Senior Lecturer in Mental Health Nursing at the University of Wolverhampton, a freelance writer, trainer and musician. He is the author of 'Reflections on Community Psychiatric Nursing' (2002) and 'Creativity, Wellbeing and Mental Health Practice' (2018).