Monday, August 06, 2007

Al Stewart with Peter White - in concert

As you all know, I finally started taking guitar lessons back in June (slow going, but I'm getting there). Anyway, I was surfing the web looking for guitar tabs to an obscure Al Stewart tune with a great little guitar lick ("House of Clocks"). I went to his website and he had the info right there, so I printed it out and later that night tried (very poorly, I might add) to play the beginning riff on my semi-hollow electric guitar. Well, anyway… while I was on his website, I decided to click on his "Concerts" button just to see if he happened to be touring. Needless to say, I was shocked to see that he was performing near Woodland Hills on Sunday night (just two days later!!!).

So, I took a drive down yesterday evening to see if they had tickets available, and I lucked out with this incredible opportunity to see Al Stewart teamed up with his long-time recording/writing/playing partner Peter White. The two of them hadn't played together on stage in 14 years, and this was the only chance to see them together as Peter was currently on tour to promote his solo material.

It was an intimate outdoor setting at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga Canyon – a small, Greek-style amphitheatre with only about 400 people in attendance. It was just the two of them playing acoustic guitars while another guy played percussion, harmonica and flute. An incredible, and at times hilarious, 2+ hours of great music and storytelling.

I was stunned to hear him opening the show with none other than "House of Clocks," and I fumbled with my camera to record the performance (the venue was very cool about allowing people to take pix and stuff… the only rules were no eating and no smoking).

He ended up playing not only his known hits – "Year of the Cat" (with a flute solo in place of the sax), "Time Passages", "Carol", "On The Border" – but also some more obscure tunes such as "Katherine of Oregon", "Antarctica", "Merlin's Time", "Paint By Numbers", and "Coldest Winter in Memory". There were a few times when Al would stop playing in the middle of a song because he'd forgotten what to sing next (hah!). With "Paint by Numbers" he stopped at the beginning of the second verse and said, "Uh, does anybody know what comes next?"

A guy in the audience yells out, "She painted me in a corner!" To which Al just stares, dumbfounded and retorts, "That's exactly right!... How do you people know these things?" And with that he picked up right where he left off and finished the song.

Another comical moment was when he suddenly stopped in the middle of "Year of the Cat" and burst out laughing, "This is GREAT! I lose my place on 'Year of the Cat'… of all songs! I'm just watching Peter playing and then I forget what I'm supposed to be doing next."

A little anecdote regarding "On The Border" – Peter had just joined Al's band when he was only 20 years old. Al only knew him as a fantastic piano player, and he said one time that he needed a Spanish guitar player for this new tune of his. Peter said that he could play Spanish guitar, but that he didn't have a guitar to play it on. So Al gave him his own guitar to use – a "cheap piece of crap" that cost only 26 British pounds at the time. And that's the guitar Peter used on the recording!

They played two sets with a 15-minute break in between, plus a 4-song encore. In the middle of both sets they had two brief sit-down Q&A sessions with Al's biographer (the book's available on, as well as re-issues on CD of many of his old albums). Note: They were recording/video taping the event last night, so I'll keep my eyes open for when it becomes available.

After the show I had the chance to meet both of them and to get their autographs on the concert ticket as well as on another Al Stewart DVD which they had on sale at the venue.


Al is one of the great "Troubadours & Tunesmiths" of the last 40 years - an incredible storyteller with his songs. It was such a pleasure to see him in concert with Peter White in such a unique and intimate setting, and to meet them both in person and get their autographs (and I'm not an autograph hound).


Karen said...

Man - you lucky pup! I saw Al 13 years agoat Ruth Eckert Hall in St. Petersburg, FL w/out PW...

Jim K.

Ojai Roy said...

20 years ago when Al Stewart was at his peak I not only enjoyed his music but his guitarist who was unknown at that time really added to Al's music. In 2000 I heard Peter White for the first time and have been hooked on him ever since. Just this week I found out that he was Al's guitarist 20 years ago so now I'm listening to Al's music again.