Thursday night, faces filled with pure admiration poured into the Barrymore Theatre as Leo Kottke finally took the stage in a serene manner. “As usual I feel like I should say something,” Kottke said during his introduction while fiddling around with his six-string guitar. Like deer caught in headlights, the crowd seemed puzzled as an elongated pause filled the theatre. “But I have nothing to say,” Leo continued, guitar still in hand, strumming various chords and dabbling in different sounds. Those familiar with Kottke were not surprised at all by his intriguingly odd introduction. Knowing his background, high expectations filled their minds as they anticipated witnessing his matchless guitar playing.
Strumming began to drown out the silence, and all perplexity vanished. Imaginary smoke tracked his assumingly callused fingertips as he played at a perpetually fast speed. Kottke’s fingers slid, covering nearly every possible fret on the neck of his guitar. Eyes bounced from one hand to the next, making it nearly impossible to neglect his signature playing style. Originally known for his forceful, acoustic finger-picking, Kottke performed in a classical style Thursday night — much easier on his hands. His unique style merged forms of folk, blues and jazz. It was virtually polyphonic.
A somewhat unfamiliar string instrument stood as a tease next to Kottke’s side, reflecting the stage lights and filling the crowd with further eagerness. The audience members smiled from ear to ear when he finally picked up the key to his legacy, the twelve-string guitar. Kottke claimed it was one tough instrument to learn. Taking a dig at his own introduction and presence on stage, he jokingly said that he had no time to learn other skills, such as social skills, after he was introduced to the instrument. Shortly after, he then played one of his hit tunes from 1974, “Pamela Brown.” It’s a song about a woman who he loved in the past, but unfortunately she did not feel the same. Because of this unrequited love, he became a musician instead of settling down. “I guess I owe it all to Pamela Brown,” he sang. The song was a treat, since it was one of the few songs Leo sang during the performance. “Who would’ve thought I’d be seeing this live, nearly 40 years later,” an audience member said excitedly. In this case, Pamela Brown really could be thanked.
Scattered throughout his performance, Kottke complemented his music with amusing monologues. He spoke of the car he received on his 16th birthday. The car had a hole near the stick shift, which displayed flames that signified when to pull over. The car only lasted him three days. He also talked of his travels and shared stories about musicians of his time. Toward the end of the concert, the audience was beyond intrigued. After Kottke ended his performance, the crowd rose to their feet, clapping nonstop. As he came back for one last encore, the crowd again came to a silence, with one exception. “Tell us another story Uncle Leo!” shouted a member from the crowd.