Review by Brian Carroll
Colin Godbout has chosen six guitarists to vie for the title of the greatest in the (popular) world. The top three from Rolling Stone’s list: Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and three from the jazz and country world: Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins and Lenny Breau. (Godbout ignores the classical guitar of Julian Bream, Segovia, John Williams and Manitas de Plata.)
Godbout’s advertising proffers a set of three cage matches: Breau vs Hendrix, Clapton vs Page, Django vs Chet.
It’s one thing for a musician to study intensively the oeuvre of one of these guitarists. But all six? Including Lenny Breau’s legendary feat of combining Mary Had a Little Lamb in 4/4 time with Three Blind Mice in 3/4 time. The three “matches” are in fact sets of medleys spanning 45 tunes by these six guitarists. In Godbout’s guitar, Django melts into Chet and back again seamlessly. Breau melts into Hendrix and Bach and Flamenco and Coltrane and… Clapton melts into Page and back to Clapton and then to Hendrix.
Let us be clear, the cage matches are marketing.
The actual show draws connections among these musicians. Chet Atkins called Django Reinhardt the world’s greatest guitarist. When Reinhardt died, people started giving Atkins that title. When Atkins heard Breau, he gave the title to Breau. Breau learned about Atkins because Lenny started in country music. Breau then went on to learn blues, jazz and flamenco. Breau covered Hendrix. Jimmy Page covered Hendrix. Page gave Clapton the intro to Stairway to Heaven for Let It Grow. And Atkins lovingly satirized rock guitarists in his version of There’ll be Some Changes Made which he recorded with Mark Knopfler.
For some tunes, Godbout sings as well as plays. He sings about as well as guitarist Leo Kottke, or Atkins or Breau or Page. It’s his guitar that shines.
Reviews of Colin Godbout’s previous shows at the Ottawa Fringe: Transcanada ’69 and Last Gig of Lenny Breau have been very complimentary about Godbout’s guitar playing. The reviewers have been less enthusiastic about his ability to write and perform a story around the music.
His latest show is a significant step up in Godbout’s showmanship. He does play the music of these six musicians very very well; he also takes on their stage personae and some of their showmanship.
For this is a musical show, interspersed with anecdotes, not a play about musicians and their lives. If the music of any of these six guitarists feeds your inner being, this is a show for you.
The Greatest Guitarist in the World by Colin Godbout is playing at Venue 2 – Arts Court Library on Saturday, June 22 at 4:30pm; Sunday, June 23 at 7:30pm; Thursday, June 27 at 5:00pm; Saturday, June 29 at 2:00pm; Sunday, June 30 at 4:30pm. Tickets are $10.