Hong Kong gigs

Review: Hong Kong treated to guitarist Laurence Juber's prodigious talent

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 December, 2015, 12:04pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 December, 2015, 12:04pm

This was Laurence Juber's second appearance in Hong Kong, and also his second at the Sheung Wan Civic Centre, but a little more than a decade has elapsed since the first.

During that time Juber has released 10 albums, which have acquired him a following on the mainland. This show was the last of a tour that also took in well-attended and received performances in Beijing and Shanghai.

Juber is one of the world's most remarkable acoustic guitarists. Classically trained, his earliest ambitions involved playing jazz on the electric guitar. Today, he remains at the forefront of a group of players taking the instrument into new territory, exploiting altered tunings, particularly DADGAD versus the standard classical guitar tuning of EADGBE.

DADGAD is popular for playing Celtic music, partly because it provides convenient drones, but Juber uses it to voice jazz chords unusually, and to play highly developed arrangements of tunes from outside the folk tradition.

He plays in other tunings as well, and towards the end of this performance demonstrated that he is still equally adept in standard tuning, performing music ranging from a ragtime original to Chuck Berry's Johnny B. Goode.

He started out in DADGAD, though, with representative pieces from his three main repertoire sources. Those are his own original compositions, the Great American Songbook standards and classic pop.

Inspired by The Beatles long before he met Paul McCartney, Juber is particularly known for covering their songs, and we heard his technically challenging versions of George Harrison's While My Guitar Gently Weeps, John Lennon's I Am the Walrus and McCartney's Blackbird, among others.

There was also a nod to his Wings past with an inventive interpretation of Live and Let Die, which demonstrated his ability to voice complex band and orchestra arrangements on just six strings, and to treat the guitar as a percussive as well as a melodic and chordal instrument.

There was a certain amount of showmanship - he plays some of his bass and rhythm parts without plucking the strings, which requires a very strong left hand - but generally speaking his formidable technique was deployed in the service of the music rather than displayed for its own sake.

Let's hope Juber doesn't leave it another 10 years before returning.

Laurence Juber, Sheung Wan Civic Centre Theatre. Reviewed: December 6