Michael Kelsey at Oakbrook Church
Around 300 folks gathered at Oakbrook Church Friday night. Three aspects made this an usual group to attend a concert by a solo guitar player and singer:
The age group – from under 7 years old, all the way up to the senior years.
The broad response – everyone I could see was enthralled, from the kids’ participation, to the whoops of enjoyment from an older fellow sitting near me.
The dedication – it was my first time for this artist, and I was strongly in the minority.
I’m going to cut to the chase here – I was impressed, enraptured, overjoyed, and will definitely see him again.
You might have guessed that, from the number of photos, or just from the fact that I’m writing about Kelsey’s show. I might be just trying to avoid the part of this review that will prove the most difficult: describing Kelsey’s performance.
His only instruments were his acoustic guitar and voice. To be truthful, he occasionally used an electronic drum pad as well. He also employed a number of electronic gizmos that “looped” the percussive sounds, music, and acoustic textures, and provided reverb, echo, and other effects. But this was not a celebration of technology. Far from it.
He built and morphed and evolved layers and beats and his voice in an extremely organic and acoustic-sounding stew…yes, it seemed more like cooking…or did it? Perhaps I could describe it as a tapestry that doesn’t reveal it’s pattern until it’s finished. No, still not right. I think the musical experience was more like a kinetic sand painting, where the artist develops one image seemingly from nowhere, then uses parts of that image to make the next image in a story he develops as it moves and grows. *Whew!*
But wait – the show was not just sonic textures and rhythms. Sometimes, Kelsey crafted a rhythm section out of vocal samples, thumps and notes on his guitar, and used it as accompaniment. In other segments, he built an orchestra that swirled and danced with his arms, head and legs – he was physically involved in every way – to tell a sound story that he used to touch the minds and hearts of his audience.
After opening with a sensitive cover of Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes,” his song selection was mostly original. Other compelling covers were “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” All though these songs were extremely good, his original material was most gratifying. My personal favorite was “Bus Driver,”