I doubt that any guitarist could ever forget the first time they heard Leo Kottke live. For this guitarist, it was a hot summer night in Central Park in 1972, when Kottke showed up as an unannounced opening act for Judy Collins and proceeded to overturn the pushcarts on the sidewalks of New York with his take-no-prisoners, 12-string pyrotechnics, leaving many of us, including Suite Judy Blue Eyes, slack jawed in wonder.
Kottke’s Liberty Hall performance was, from soup to nuts, all about balance. From the opening tune, “Airproofing,” which put all at ease with its rolling tempo, Kottke and the audience were off and rolling together on a delightful journey of harmony, rhythm, melody and mirth. His baritone voice (about which he has been self-effacing for decades) was in fine form too; no finer than when he did his version of “Corrina, Corrina” accompanied by some of the most beautiful chord inversions on the planet. Closing the show with “Gewerbegebiet,” a 12-string melodic haunter from his Try and Stop Me album, Kottke received a genuine standing ovation from a delighted crowd.
After the show, he said he is probably enjoying playing shows now more than at any time in his five-decade career. Based on what I experienced at Liberty Hall, I would concur.
– Ken Spooner