Rychard Carrington reports on Steve Howe - The Junction, Cambridge, 29 June 2013

Junction 2, The

Isn't there something delightfully pleasing about solo acoustic guitar, unaccompanied by vocals or anything else? I think there is. So delicately, so unassumingly, it mesmerises one. Especially, of course, when played by a maestro. Steve Howe is such a maestro, and the solo guitar music he played at The Junction was delightful.


Certainly one didn't need to have heard of Howe previously to have appreciated this gig (well attended, but not full). If you have heard of him, you'll be aware that he's best known as a rock guitarist (i.e. electric guitarist, first and foremost), playing for the mighty Yes (as well as the soulless Asia; and the querkily exciting Tomorrow, and the smooth GTR, and others). In fact he played versions of several Yes numbers this evening. However, elaborate arrangements of a particularly ornate five-piece rock band did sound rather different re-scored for acoustic guitar (and just a little singing). In fact Yes deotees will be aware that Howe's acoustic contributions have sporadically leavened the onrnate clutter of Yes albums, notably Mood For A Day on Fragile (their second-best album, according to my humble opinion) and Clap on The Yes Album (their best, according to objective fact). These numbers featured as closers of the first and second halves respectively.


Howe is a serious guitar aficionado. He owns a hundred of the things. For the first half he played a Japanese-manfaytured Spanish guitar which he'd owned for forty years. In the second half he played two Martin guitars. For the encore (Devon Blue) he played a dobro guitar. Classical, flamenco, blues and country styles were all displayed to strong effect (whereas on his last visit here, in a trio with Dylan Howe and Ross Stanley, he played jazz). Not rock, as such: Howe and his peers have enriched rock by importing other styles into its range, rather than developing a distinctively rock style for acoustic guitar. Tributes were paid to early heroes Chet Atkins, Mason Williams and Big Bill Broonzy: a seamless integration of influences into one elegant flow was effected. 


If you want to know what the gig sounded like, the best you can do is listen to Howe's 2008 album Motif, which contains many of the numbers featured. The Steve Howe Trio are on tour again in September, and Yes in May 2014. Moving Tone recommends.


Writer: Rychard Carrington