Alan Holdsworth At Club Metronome Tuesday May 20, 2008

Words by Tim Lewis.

I was pretty torn about whether to go to this show. As soon as I saw it on the Metronome schedule I was pretty stunned. I know he’s a great guitar player and has influenced almost all of my favorites. I know he also plays jazz/fusion, which doesn’t do much for me, so I was torn. The decision reminded me of a long time ago when Stevie Ray Vaughn first came to Burlington. I was not into blues but was into great guitarists and everyone said he was one of the best. In the end I went and was stunned by half way into the first song. I’m still not a blues fan, but it did open my eyes a bit and I am much more accepting of that style now.

My friend Don was excited about the show and my friend Rich was on the fence. Holdsworth has played such great music with Bill Bruford, Eddie Jobson and was a member of UK for the first of two albums. With that kind of a prog rock history Rich called around 6 to see where I was at. We were both on the fence but leaning slightly towards going and just reinforced each other. He came over for a rousing game of Jeopardy with the roommates and I (which was slightly interrupted by Don calling to say he would meet us there, thank goodness for the pause button on the TV) and then it was off to the show. We parked (what is this getting a ride to shows thing?) and headed to separate ATM’s to avoid stupid bank charges. When my wallet was enriched I walked down Church st and turned the corner to Main and headed towards Metronome. There was a long line. Yea Burlington, way to turn out! We were guessing that every guitar player in the area might come to the show, but that certainly was not the case, as I did not recognize many people there. On the other hand I bet the audience was made up of a very high percentage of musicians.

Rich arrived in line with me minutes later and it slowly crept its way into Metronome. I was a bit worried as many people had tickets or confirmations and we were hoping to pay cash. We finally got to the front of the line and they happily took our $15 cash and in we went.

The room was 1/5th full of tables and then it was standing space from just in front of the soundboard to the back. The tables were full and people stood behind about half filling the club. I looked around and saw Don at a table in front with two empty chairs. I ducked in to say hi and ducked out to grab drinks for us and told Rich where we were and headed to the front row seat on Alan’s side of the stage. Don was joined at the table by the first person in line (Don was second) that turned out to be a nice guy named Pete. He was pretty big and bald and knew tons about prog and plays guitar.

We had a couple of drinks and settled in and a bit after 9 Alan and his band came out. He was playing with Chad Wackerman on drums and Earnest Tibbs on 6 string bass. As the trio began playing they sounded nice in that mellow jazz/fusion way. After a few moments my attention turned to the drums and OMG it was obvious real quick that this guy was amazing. Perfect touch, perfect bounce and the way he played, he was all over the kit in a monster drummer kind of way. The bass playing was also truly amazing as well. He tended to do a lot of high notes, which gave everything a great sound. This was cool. I’m wasn’t amazed yet but it was really good and quite nice.

Alan had been playing chords but then the song moved into a lead break and WOW. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such fast precise guitar playing. Maybe when I saw Stevie Ray Vaughn or Steve Morse, but that’s about it. He was the real deal and it was so awe-inspiring.

They wrapped up the first song and stepped into the next. It quickly became apparent that it was going to be an amazing show that I would have a hard time listening to. I like a lot more structure in songs and the looseness of his genre wasn’t something that would just take me away. I knew I wanted to be there for every moment but I would need a strategy. I listened around and then realized I could really quite enjoy the drumming on it’s own. I started to focus on that and let the bass and guitar paint the atmosphere on either side. Wow did that work. From then on when they were playing the structure of the song I went on the drum ride and when Alan played the lead I was drawn to the spectacle. Wow he is amazing. He is so fast and fluid and plays notes that most people would never imagine of hitting and contorted his hand in ways to hit notes and chords that makes my hand hurt just thinking about it!

At one point several songs in Rich got up for a return of the rental beer and then went the bar for another and talked to someone he met. He came back and said he would give up his seat for him and soon we were joined by another longhaired bearded Tim (though granted his hair is not as long as mine). We all relished the next few songs and soon it was time for the band to say goodnight. It’s funny that Alan had a microphone and all the songs were instrumental and he only used it to say hi a couple of times and introduce the band a few times.

They came back for a heavily demanded encore and played one more. One more time to watch the wizard wiggle his fingers and hear the amazing results. They cruised into the ending, said good night, left the stage and that was it. Wow!

After the show we hung out a bit as the staff dismantled the tables and most of the people left. A few hung around to see if he would come out and Don was hoping to get his copy of the first UK album signed. While waiting I saw Ornan and said hi. We chatted a bit and I introduced him to Rich and Don and he told me that one of his bands, Band X would be playing at downstairs at Nectars on Saturday. He said they were pretty rocking and doing lots of covers like Deep Purple and Yes. I asked what Yes song and he said Long Distance Runaround and they were playing it into the Fish. Cool. He then introduced me to Chad his bass player and we chatted as Don went over and met Alan and got his album memorialized.

This post was originally published by Tim Lewis at his personal blog,