Monday, June 30, 2014

Concert Review: Tri-C JazzFest Cleveland 2014 - Raul Midón

It's not often these days that I'm truly mesmerized by a musician. Maybe because I grew up listening to guys like Eddie Van Halen, Yngwie Malmsteen, and a multitude of speed, tapping,and outlandish guitar playing...yes, the '80's. Unfortunately, I'm not old enough to experienced true groundbreakers like Jimi Hendrix, Pete Townsend or Eric Clapton when they first hit the scene and blew people's minds. Sometimes, a new band will blow me away...most recently with the Winery Dogs, but not often. That's why the concert I went to on Saturday night was so refreshing. 
As you can tell (as if you couldn't before if you regularly read my blog...which I'm sure you do), I'm a big time rock guy. I don't vary much in genre. I like blues and rock and that's about it. I'm also a guitarist and am passionate about my guitar heroes and their influences. So, when I was approached to be a blogger and help promote the Tri-C JazzFest, I had to think about it. Ultimately, I agreed to because I support the overall live music scene in Cleveland. With Tri-C JazzFest celebrating its 35th anniversary, it's not hard to get behind a festival that has such a rich history in Cleveland, even if it's not my first choice in music. They offered me two free tickets to a show of my choice (full disclosure...the tickets were in exchange for my blogging). I like some jazz, more the bluesy type. I looked through the artists playing to see what appealed to me. I'm not big on horns, so I was glad to see their was a guitarist, Raul Midón. I'd never heard of him, so I read his bio (read it here), then looked him up on YouTube. 

First thing you need to know is that he's blind. His first CD came out in 1999, so he's not a new artist. I picked a random video on YouTube and checked it out. He was playing acoustic guitar with one hand, bongos with the other, singing beautifully and, at times, making trumpet sounds with his mouth (think Bobby McFerrin of "Don't Worry, Be Happy" fame). It was incredible to see. I easily decided this was someone I wanted to see. That was the only video I watched and I had an inkling of what to expect. I was more interested in seeing him play than in the songs themselves. But that was definitely enough to pique my interest.

So, now fast forward to this past Saturday night at the Hanna Theater. Not only was his playing incredible to watch, but the actual songs were just as good as his playing. It's just him playing...no backing band or anyone to accompany him. He started out with "Sunshine" which was the song for the video I had watched (above). To see it live was almost indescribable. You truly need to watch the video to experience it. 
For a full 90 minutes, Midón sang about his life, told us stories about being a little too enamored with one of his heroes (which he turned into the song "Don't Be a Silly Man"), joked around, played with passion and didn't miss a note. It was the fastest 90 minutes I can remember in a long time. His song writing tells simple stories in a way that keeps you listening...all the while just waiting for him to break into another guitar solo. His guitar playing includes a one-handed tapping technique that is different from Eddie Van Halen. Instead of using the tapping during the solos, he uses it for the rhythm while he is playing bongos with his other hand. He also has a sort of slapping technique that gives his playing a unique sound. To truly appreciate it, watch either of the videos here.
Needless to say, he easily made a fan of me. I'll be picking up his older CD's, as well as his new one that will be coming out later this year. He played a few songs from the upcoming CD and they were really good. Do yourself a favor and check him out. I don't think you'll be disappointed. I know I wasn't. I'll be keeping my eye out for when he comes back to Cleveland...maybe with the 36th annual Tri-C JazzFest!

Set List (to the best I know the titles...):
Sunshine (I Can Fly)
All I Need
God's Dream
Was it Ever Really Love?
Invisible Chains
Yardbird Suite (Charlie Parker cover)
Everyone Deserves a Second Chance
Listen to the Rain
Don't Be a Silly Man
Mi Amigo Cubano
State of Mind

Did you attend any of the Tri-C JazzFest concerts this year? If so, which ones and what did you think? Or, what artists have you unexpectedly become a huge fan of? Tell us in the comments below or share this post on Facebook or Twitter and tell us there! Thanks for reading and, as always, if you like my blog, please share it with your friends!

Disclosure: Tri-C JazzFest invited me to blog and promote the event. In return, they provided me with two tickets to the concert. All opinions are 100% my own.

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