Paul Gilbert and Band                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

The Iridium Jazz Club – NYC – 6/12/19

It was a breezy, balmy night, but the music was hot at The Iridium, New York City’s iconic jazz club, whose doors look out at the heart of Times Square. The sound of furious electric jazz/rock/metal/pop fusion reverberated through the subterranean venue and up the narrow staircase, courtesy of Paul Gilbert and his band. The second of three sold-out nights found guitar-master Gilbert along with Bill Ray (drums). Asher Fulero (keyboards), and Timmer Blakely (bass ), treating the crowd to virtuosic cover versions, original material, and songs from Gilbert’s latest solo release, Behold Electric Guitar.

Amiable, enthusiastic, enormously talented, and with a penchant for teaching the audience how to properly hear the songs, the lanky guitarist alternated between guitar hero and musical concierge. One moment firing off lightning-fast riffs and the next detailing the origins of a song (including his inspiration, how he arrived at the key, etc.), Gilbert’s impressive chops were always in play, but were never used as a barrier between the artist and the audience – in fact, we average humans in attendance eventually felt like we were in a casual night over at Paul’s house.

Guitar World named Gilbert as one of the ‘50 Fastest Guitarists of all Time’ and GuitarOne magazine lists him as one of the ‘Top Ten Greatest Guitar Shredders.’ As dubious as these appellations might be (who cares how fast you can play if you aren’t tasty?) the guitarist does in fact live up to his reputation as a guitar slinger extraordinaire. The fact that he counts George Harrison as an inspiration indicates that Gilbert’s passion for playing goes beyond running through scales as fast as possible, but goes deeper into melody, tone, and texture. In fact I was surprised at the frequent use of slide in Gilbert’s playing – so present, in fact, that the slide had a constant resting place built right into his guitar.

The entertaining Gilbert drew on more than one musical and/or cultural icon in his performance. Not shy about detailing his heroes and influences, in introducing “A Herd of Turtles,” from Behold Electric Guitar, Gilbert mentioned that the song’s creation was impacted by no less than Johnny Cash, James Brown, Ringo Starr, and Bachman Turner Overdrive – and you know, somehow you could hear it all (even though the Ringo part was spoken word – you had to be there). Also appearing in one form or another: the theme from TV’s Batman, a chord from Led Zeppelin, the theme from Rocky, and, yes – Mary Had a Little Lamb. Of course, there was a Beatles mini-medley as Gilbert and his excellent trio of backing musicians played “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill” and a tour-de-force version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” to an enthusiastic ovation.

Though it was a night of instrumental music, Gilbert’s guitar lines seemed to be often influenced by vocal phrasing, and Paul himself seemed to indicate in not-so-many-words that his guitar was, in fact, the singer. The performance felt like more of a sharing of Gilbert’s passions than the usual in your face, hey-look-at-me-I’m-a rock-star shtick.                                                                                                                                                     

Well ….maybe he did yell out “rock and roll” once. But, I mean – he is a rock star.

  • Bert Saraco: words and pictures

Disclaimer: I would rather ‘take you there’ than detail the set-lists, what the band was wearing, and whether or not he caught a guitar pick. But just for the record, I didn’t get a guitar pick…..

For more of Bert Saraco’s concert photography featuring Paul Gilbert and others, visit: