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Guitar stars pay tribute to Les Paul


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Eric Carmen sings as part of the Les Paul Tribute at the State Theater in Cleveland.

(PHOTO: BRYNNE SHAW)

Guitar stars pay tribute to Les Paul in Cleveland concert

By John Soeder/Plain Dealer Pop Music Critic

A star-powered, sold-out concert in honor of Les Paul, the original guitar hero, turned out to be a lot more exciting than any video game.

Slash of Guns N' Roses and Velvet Revolver, Bon Jovi's Richie Sambora, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top and other musical luminaries were on hand Saturday night at Playhouse Square's State Theatre for a salute to Paul. The guest of honor forever changed the sound of popular music when he invented a solid-body electric guitar. It came into vogue in the 1950s, along with a guitar-driven style of music called rock 'n' roll.

Paul, 93, was also there for the show. It put an exclamation point on the 13th annual American Music Masters series, a weeklong Paul tribute presented by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Case Western Reserve University and Gibson Guitar Corp.

Naturally, this night belonged to the guitar players. Two standouts, Gibbons and Barbara Lynn, teamed up for a bluesy duet to kick off the celebration.

Another early highlight was Jeff "Skunk" Baxter's fleet-fingered rendition of "Take the 'A' Train," a nod to Paul's jazz roots.

In a similar vein, Cleveland's Eric Carmen and Steve Lukather of Toto joined forces on "It's Been a Long, Long Time." Carmen made a fine crooner and Lukather's guitar solo was eloquent and intense. Afterwards, Carmen mopped Lukather's brow with a handkerchief.

"How High the Moon" and "Vaya Con Dios" were belted out with verve by Katy Moffatt and Alannah Myles, respectively, with guitarist Lenny Kaye of the Patti Smith Group furnishing tasteful accompaniment on both numbers. Those oldies were No. 1 singles in the '50s for Paul and his then-wife, singer Mary Ford. She died in 1977.

Of course, in the right hands, the guitar itself can sing, as Jennifer Batten (a veteran of Michael Jackson's and Jeff Beck's bands) demonstrated with a dazzling re-creation of Paul's hit "Lover." Six-string specialists James Burton, Duane Eddy, Lonnie Mack and Dennis Coffey also wowed the crowd with a series of flashy instrumentals. Ditto the Ventures, who turned in a fun version of their smash "Walk--Don't Run."

Gibbons returned to the stage for a gritty take on ZZ Top's "Just Got Paid," prefaced with a humorous anecdote about spending the afternoon with Paul, in search of Mexican food.

"Let's thank God for this -- and thank God for Les Paul," said Sambora, who serenaded us with Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive" and 
dedicated his ballad "Great Hall of Fame" to the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers in the house. Besides Paul (who also pioneered multi-track recording), their ranks included Burton, Eddy, Gibbons, Kaye and the Ventures.

Slash put on a one-man guitar clinic, coaxing ecstatic squeals and passionate wails during the moody jam "Vocalise."

The five-piece house band was led by Bobby Wood, a pianist whose ivory-tickling has graced numerous hits, including Elvis Presley's "Suspicious Minds."

Paul, who still has a weekly gig at the Iridium club in New York City, capped the 3 1/2-hour extravaganza with a set of his own. He was greeted with a standing ovation from 3,000-plus concertgoers.

Perched on a riser, Paul expertly summoned clipped melody lines and bluesy licks from his guitar as he and his backing trio delivered a handful of jazz standards, including a transcendental "Over the Rainbow."

For the grand finale, the entire cast joined Paul for a blues free-for-all in the key of E. It was momentous. And cacophonous. And ultimately triumphant.

"This is a wonderful night for me," a visibly moved Paul said. "Thank you so much!"

The pleasure was all ours.

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Having grown up with the music of Les Paul and Mary Ford, the tribute would have been wonderful to experience. Thanks for the coverage. The pic of Eric was a shock, I thought they dressed him up as a clown before I realized it was the lighting. Yikes haha:rolleyes:confused

It looks like a really cool Suit Coat with a nice dress shirt to me...I'm not sure what the heck you are looking at.

Tim

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ec doing standards. hmmmmm Clive ...are you reading this?

Whoa...even though ec is such a rocker...can't you ladies just picture him, fitted in a dark Armani suit, crisp white shirt opened half way down, crooning some American standards? Geez..if I weren't such a man's man......oh never mind...LOL!!!!!

kerching $

John

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The Manager's report:

As the night came to a close, Eric summed it up best to me in one sentence:

"It should be illegal to have this much fun!"

The show - itself a very complex and challenging undertaking - went off without a hitch (the Rock Hall staff couldn't have been more helpful and accomodating), and there were so many highlights I can't begin to list them all here. So I'll try to give you a sense of the event with the highlights that immediately come to mind:

Every artist brought their "A" game, and all egos were left at the door for what was truly a very special, one-of-a-kind night. During rehearsals, sound checks (these cats are such pros - one or two takes at most and their part of the soundcheck was done) and throughout the show, all of the artists truly seemed to be fans of each others music, were humbled by their participation with each other and all seemed to genuinely be in awe of each other and their performances. So many times during the night I stood with various performers as they intently watched - with the utmost respect - their peers do their numbers, and then made it a point to compliment and support each other as the 3 1/2 hour performance went on.

Every artist was a consumate pro - they all were SO nice to everyone involved - from the teamsters to the crew to the house band - and showed complete respect both for each other and for the show itself.

From an EC / Berries perspective, it was also a pretty special night. I can sum it up in one comment: It was like we were in the EC / Berries version of the "Cheers" bar - everybody knew the band's and Eric's name, and many of the artists were fans and made a point of letting us know it throughout the course of the evening.

Richie Sambora and Slash told me that they were BIG Berries fans, and when I gave them copies of "Live On Sunset Strip" they both were sincerely excited to receive the set.

Slash in particular expressed his fondness for the band to Eric and I on multiple occasions, was very excited about the reunion, and told me he wanted to come to one the shows last year but had conflicts on the road or in the studio on the show dates.

Steve Lukather holds Eric in very high regard, and wasn't shy about letting everyone know it.

Lenny Kaye from Patti Smith's band asked me if I could get Eric to sign the set I gave him. He's such a nice guy, a class act and a great guitarist.

The CEO of Gibson Guitar was truly excited to see some great Gene Taylor images I gave him of Wally Bryson in all of his glory playing his vintage Flying V and Double Neck.

Every performance was an out-of-the-park smash. Just when you thought you'd seen it all, the next number would be every bit as special.

Then, to top it off, Les Paul himself told Eric he did a "Beautiful" rendition of one of Les's favorite songs.

This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hang and perform with such an elite group of some of the most influential performers in the history of popular music - James Burton, Duane Eddy, Lonnie Mack, Dennis Coffey, Barbara Lynn , The Ventures AND Les Paul, along with their contemporary counterparts - Steve Lukather, Jennifer Batten, Lenny Kaye, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, Billy Gibbons, Richie Sambora, and Slash...what can I say. It was an amazing experience. No drama. no stress. A great night.

I think Eric is still floating on air.

Also, I made sure we documented the night with some very cool photo opps, and I'll be sure to share these great images as I get them.

That's it for now...

Thanks,

AL

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al,thanks for your report and insight..you made my day..really,not just the tribute,but...the references from players on how nice and down to earth they were,and,yet alone!! the raspberries ARE VERY ALIVE AND WELL KNOWN!! tis a good time for this if i do say so myself..yet alone eric..god bless ya!! lol,chris

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Here's the set list from Saturday night:

Blues Duet - Billy Gibbons & Barbara Lynn

Take the "A" Train - Jeff "Skunk" Baxter

It's Been a Long, Long Time - Eric Carmen and Steve Lukather

Over the Rainbow - Steve Lukather

How High the Moon - Lenny Kaye & Katy Moffatt

Vaya Con Dios - Lenny Kaye & Alannah Myles

Lover - Jennifer Batten

Mystery Train - James Burton

Rebel Rouser - Duane Eddy

Unknown instrumental - Lonnie Mack

Unknown instrumental - Dennis Coffey

Walk Don't Run - Ventures

Just Got Paid - Billy Gibbons

Great Hall of Fame - Ritchie Sambora

Wanted Dead or Alive - Ritchie Sambora

Vocalaise - Slash

Over the Rainbow - Les Paul & group

Either Vaya Con Dios or How High the Moon - Les Paul & group

Unknown instrumentals (approximately 30 minute set total) - Les Paul & group

Blues Jam - All

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