Tonight the Craufurd arms have Mr Big guitarist, Paul Gilbert playing. It’s a big booking for a small venue but then the venue promoter seems to be very good at getting high profile gigs. Happily the booking looks to have paid off as ticket sales were good enough that the venue was almost completely full, so it was crowded and hot in there and talking to some of the fans it was clear that many had travelled for tonight’s show, some having come quite long distances. It’s understandable as it’s not often you’ll get the chance to see Paul Gilbert play a small venue like this.
At 8.45pm he took to the stage for the start of a two-hour set. It’s a mix of his own material (pretty much the entire “Behold electric guitar” album) and some covers. An early cover that surprised me was “Gonna fly now”, a song by Bill Conti that’s better known as the theme from Rocky. There’s only one Mr Big song, but we also get songs from Jimi Hendrix, Kansas, The Beatles and The Yardbirds.
It was very clear that there were two types of people in the audience. First was the guitar nuts – quite a few probably play guitar and they could probably talk about guitars for hours. The other type was fans of Mr Big. Of the two groups, the guitar lovers were the happy ones as tonight was sheer heaven for them with Paul Gilbert demonstrating some fantastic playing covering a mix of styles but mainly music with a blues sound. The second group though were less thrilled as tonight while Paul Gilbert had a backing band with him, he didn’t bring a singer, so this was basically two hours of instrumentals which proved too much for some people.
Yes he’s an amazing guitar player and tonight’s show demonstrates how good he is not just at one or two styles but a whole range of styles of music, but it still fails to appeal to an audience of non-guitarists. This was definitely a show just for guitar-nuts. There are in my opinion very very few guitarists who can pull off a long instrumental set and appeal to a wide audience – in fact Joe Satriani is probably the only one. That means no matter how talented Paul Gilbert clearly is, it’s just too much instrumental music to really appeal to a wide audience. The guitar-nuts loved it, the rest went to the bar instead.