Way over 100 shows in 2012- a personal record!
It was 1987 and I was a huge fan of neo-classical heavy metal shred guitar (which was right around its hey day at the time- before music turn a turn for the worse). That summer before 10th grade, I became a fan of Paco de Lucia, Al DiMeola and John McLaughlin when an older kid told me about the incredible guitar playing on “Friday Night in San Francisco”. That recording instantly became and has since been my favorite guitar record of all time. I still get chills listening to parts of it.
I saw the aforementioned Guitar Trio live in concert in the late 90s at the Universal Amphitheater (now Gibson)- the only problem was that I had a nasty migraine headache throughout the concert. The show was as enjoyable as possible and Paco’s playing was definitely the highlight for me.
I then caught him solo at the Walt Disney Concert Hall back in 2006. He doesn’t play in California a lot, so this was a big deal. I sat in the front row of the side balcony overlooking him on the stage. That show was stunning and it was quite special to see a true master in a venue with incredible acoustics. You hear every little detail.
Fast forward 6 plus years. Paco is back again at the WDCH. This show was already sold out when I managed to luck out with a single ticket. I’ve sat in this particular section several times and it may be the best place to sit in the venue in terms of overall sound and view.
I got there early and read up on the program. I learned a lot of stuff reading up on the performance- Paco is self-taught and never had any formal training. That’s impressive. There were other interesting facts in there as well, but I’ll get to those later….
I got to my seat and was immediately annoyed. The ushers and staff here suck. Usher “Lionel” told me no pictures or video. I was just tinkering with my phone, dude. Maybe Usher Raymond wouldn’t have been such a picture Nazi. Maybe I should have sat in his section instead. Thankfully, the seat next to me never got claimed during the show. That’s always a bonus to have a little extra room. Here’s where I was sitting- the glowing blue section down below is the stage.
The show started just after 8:00PM. Paco came out solo and started tearing it up with his flamenco guitar playing. He played some incredible flamenco tunes and was then joined by some vocalists who did a lot of cool hand clapping along with his playing. The singing at times sounded like the dude was in misery. I’m sure in some other countries it’s considered very cool, but I couldn’t get into much of it- I just wanted shredding guitar… As the show progressed, there was a keyboardist, a drummer, a bass player and a second guitarist. I really liked the bass playing and I got to hear Paco’s brilliant playing, so mission accomplished! Enjoy the music and the filming of the inside of my shirt pocket from my cell phone…
Another element of the show was the flamenco dancer dude named Farruco that tapped along to the music. It was interesting for a few minutes and he did a few moves that were really cool which complimented the music nicely, but it got old quickly. I was relieved when that part of the show ended. They also did some tunes that sounded a lot like Al DiMeola’s World Sinfonia albums- I really liked those.
I don’t think Paco speaks English, so there wasn’t a lot of time wasted with a bunch of rambling, which left more time for music – another bonus.
When it hit 9:45, I went downstairs to beat the foot traffic and stopped for a second to take a picture of the merch booth. It’s a lot cheaper to take a picture of a shirt than to buy one…
Then I watched the rest of the show on the monitor on the wall.
The sound is surprisingly good right there and I probably would have been almost as happy pulling up a chair and watching the entire show from that spot….
Some exclusive lobby footage:
Once they finished that song (one of the best of the evening), I bolted for the freeway.