A legendary and chart-topping instrumentalist who also happens to have pioneered the electric guitar, multitrack recording and the use of reverb, among other things, he is still a vital performer revered by the industry and fans. Sunday's concert, featuring a star-studded lineup of devoted followers (many of whom are participating in an upcoming album, Les Paul & Friends: American Made World Played, of collaborations with Paul to be released by Capitol/EMI), was a guitar lover's dream.
After a short biographical film reminding the audience of Paul's many achievements, the concert began with Fly like an eagle by the Steve Miller Band, whose front man informed us that the guitar legend, a family friend, had personally taught him his first chords decades earlier.
The fast-paced evening featured a dazzling array of guitarists from the worlds of rock, blues and jazz. Among the first-half standouts were Kenny Wayne Shepherd, providing a sample of blistering Texas blues with Shame shame shame; Stanley Jordan, displaying his distinctive "hammering-on" technique; Edgar Winter (playing keyboards) and Peter Frampton, inducing boomer nostalgia with Rock & roll hoochie koo and So into you, respectively; Tommy Emmanuel, garnering a standing ovation by using his guitar as a percussive instrument in Mombasa; legit performer Lilias White, channeling Janis Joplin in a fierce duet with Neil Schon; and Steve Lukather and Joe Satriani, displaying their virtuosic technique in blazing solos.
The man of honor himself emerged for the more jazz-oriented second half. After wrestling with a few technical problems ("I knew I should have gotten a Fender," he cracked), he displayed his unique style on a medley of such vintage songs as Blue skies and Somewhere over the rainbow. He then collaborated with a variety of performers, including Derek Trucks on a particularly bluesy Good night Irene, Jose Feliciano on a swinging How high the moon and singer Madeleine Peyroux on his chart-topping hit with Bing Crosby, It's been a long, long time.
The years have done little to diminish his friskiness: Paul also flirted shamelessly with his sultry female bassist, joking, "When I look at her, I feel like a condemned building with a new flagpole on it."
After an uncharacteristically crooning performance by Steve Miller of the jazz standard Nature boy, the evening ended with the requisite finale featuring the entire cast. But while the performance of Let the good times roll was predictably ragged, the series of solos by nearly everyone on the bill well demonstrated the amazing diversity of styles on display.
Reuters/Hollywood Reporter, June 20th 2005