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Anders Osborne Crushes Brooklyn Bowl

March 21st, 2011

Anders Osborne – Brooklyn Bowl – March 19, 2009

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The electric guitar has always been the dummy to its rock and roll ventriloquist, speaking truths the guitarist can’t—or won’t—say aloud, channeling the innermost emotions of its player. Occasionally a guitarist can work enough magic so that his or her guitar goes Pinocchio, living and breathing on its own, which is what happened on Saturday night at Brooklyn Bowl when Anders Osborne brought a life to his guitar that is rarely seen onstage, transmitting a palpable passion through his instrument, revealing demons, woe, redemption and joy.

Playing in a trio with Carl Dufrene on bass and Eric Bolivar on drums, Osborne opened the show with a lengthy introduction to “Love Is Taking Its Toll.” The restless, open-ended feel of the opening number was indicative of the whole set and also the bearded Swede’s mindset: Once he gets that soul opened up, he’s going to take as much time as he needs saying what needs to be said. This was the music of a man emotionally at ease. One early jam was a total journey into a psyche, starting with one long sustained note that Osborne modulated like he was tuning his guitar. The rhythm section cycled over and over on the same theme while the note moaned out decades of emotion and in its steadiness built to a subtle climax. From there the music doubled and tripled in complexity. Osborne layered notes like deep thoughts cushioned by a cartoon cloud, each riff coming off as both fragile and indestructible.

A couple of songs in, Osborne invited Scott Metzger onstage. Like a therapist urging Osborne to go on and open up his feelings, Metzger’s guitar was a perfect sounding board for the rest of the set. Adding a second guitar to an already formidable front of sound is not foolproof, but Metzger is as good as anyone when it comes to fitting in and by the end of the show made it feel like he was a full-fledged member of a quartet and not a guest sitting in with a trio. A third guitar player, from opener Leroy Justice, pushed things into ridiculous territory for a healthy end section that featured more frenetic guitar licks than recommended by the FDA. Returning for a well-deserved encore, Osborne and Metzger, smiling broadly at each other, traded an endless stream of bantering guitar, bringing more passion to Neil Young’s “Ohio” than has been felt in decades. —A. Stein

Photo courtesy of Michael Jurick | music.jurick.net