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Review: Bob Brozman Live Show

Bob Brozman at the Corner Hotel, Melbourne AUS
Saturday 22nd March 2003

As heard by CHRIS WATSON


Those of you who are unaware of the work of Bob Brozman are doing yourselves a great disservice. The widely travelled ethnomusicologist, anarchist and sonic hooligan puts on a one man show, the likes of which has surely not been seen since Charlie Patton, Django Rheinhardt, or Jimi Hendrix. He leaves an indelible mark on his audience.

He arrives on stage wearing a very loose and colourful Hawaiian shirt. He is a small, bearded, bespectacled man. He sits down and peers studiously at the audience. He speaks quietly. "I've been playing music for forty two years. Which means that I am really just a beginner." He speaks a few sentences about being "in the now" , and picks up one of his metal-bodied reso-phonic guitars. He says, "just wait 'til after this first song and then I'll be awake."

Well, even if it didn't wake him it certainly woke me. It woke me from musical complacency and laziness. The man didn't burst into this song, he ex-ploded. As Bush's military machine rolled across the Iraqi landscape, and bombs dropped half a world away, it all faded to a faint whisper of idiocy as the Mother Of All Bobs, laid waste to the musical topography of my mind. He is a giant now.

His performance is frenetic. His shoulders twitch and roll, his neck cranes and lashes, his face contorts in the ecstasy of concentration, his legs are beating out two different timings while the guitar is playing in a rhythm all it's own. But they are, somehow, all one. His hands and arms flap about and seem to be everywhere but where they need to be, to belt out this music. At times I'd swear he had hidden wa-wa pedals or digital effects, such was the range of sounds emanating from the stage.

Of course he didn't. He bashes, scrapes, slaps, grunts, growls, yells and yodels his way through a repertoire of music from countries which read like the pages of David Attenborough's passport. Or Bob Brozman's. Madagascar, Reunion, Hawaii, Bolivia, Okinawa, India, Bluegrass, Delta Blues, and the beat goes on… What does it sound like? Think Roy Smeck, Ravi Shankar, Robert Johnson, Zakir Hussein, Leo Kottke, and Claude Debussy, getting stoned on an island in the middle of the Indian ocean. Then they swap instruments and play them back to front, and upside down.

With stops along the way to joke ( "if you combine anarchy with politeness, you have a perfect world" ) and educate the audience about misconceptions of musical time, the Brozman juggernaut plunges on. Playing Hawaiian lap guitars, the Bolivian charango, National reso-phonic steel guitars and tri-cone baritone guitar, Bob redefines the word inventive. It now means- see Bob Brozman.

If I could pick out a favourite from such a solidly enjoyable set as this, it would be the heartfelt and moving treatment he gave Waltzing Mathilda, my national anthem, on the Hawaiian guitar. His thank you to the audience.

At the conclusion of the show, he is visibly tired. His flowing Hawaiian shirt seems even bigger now, hanging off him. It's as if he has actually shrunk or lost weight through his energetic performance. What a show.

Bob has a website at www.bobbrozman.com where he gives tips to ambitious guitarists and provides his touring details. The website is huge and there is a lot of other interesting information there. You can't really go far wrong with any of his recordings but, Live Now is the best for mine. Recorded live at shows in Australia and the USA. The songs on this album represent the best of his live set and the entire album is captivating from the start. Then there is his Jeff Lang collaboration Rolling Through This World which won the 2002 Blues Album of the Year ARIA. 'Nuff said.



Bob Brozman - King of the National Guitar


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