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Review of Buckethead's show at B.B. Kings, New York - August 19, 2011

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Review of Buckethead's show at B.B. Kings, New York - August 19, 2011 Empty Review of Buckethead's show at B.B. Kings, New York - August 19, 2011

Post by Soulmonster on Fri Aug 19, 2011 10:21 pm

The one and only Buckethead enthralled New Yorkers at B.B. Kings in Times Square last night, putting on a fantastic display of guitar technique, improvisation, and ingenuity at a sold out show.

The hockey mask and bucket-wearing guitar virtuoso is easily one of the wackiest characters in the rock world, having been hired and then let go by none other than Axl Rose, but not before recording some of Chinese Democracy’s finest solos. Buckethead also has an extensive 30+ CD discography, with one record featuring guest vocals from the likes of Serj Tankien, but last night’s show featured no vocals, or even other musicians. The stage featured only Buckethead, a playback machine, and a bearded, dreadlocked guitar tech who seemed to fidget with the equipment almost randomly.

The crowd at a Buckethead show is diverse, reflecting the musician’s roots in heavy metal as well as a variety of other genres, from jazz to blues to funk to fusion (whatever that is), but most of all, the crowd was packed in. The underground B.B. Kings was absolutely jam-packed from front to back after it sold out weeks ago, reflecting the underground buzz that has followed Buckethead ever since he stunned the world on the first Guns n’ Roses Chinese Democracy tour.

Fans crammed up against the stage and each other, cheering as the tall, lanky Buckethead came out and quickly started playing over drum and bass tracks. While at one point he’d given up his iconic KFC bucket headwear with the word ‘funeral’ written on it for a plain white one, last night the KFC bucket was back on his head, sans the ‘funeral.’ What has always remained the same though, is the virtuoso’s complete and absolute mastery of the electric guitar.

Buckethead plays with distortion and chorus effects virtually drenching his guitar tone, morpherd to a point where most guitarists would just sound like mud, but with his impossibly long fingers effortlessly flying over the fretboard, nothing could’ve sounded more beautiful. He jumped from hard-hitting power riffs to scrambling finger-tapping solos, and pulled off into heart-rending bends and pulls. Seemingly improvising the entire night, listening to Buckethead play live is like a prog metal show without the boring parts, a thrash metal show without the screaming, or watching a master violinist with an extreme stage show. He is at once Eddie Van Halen, Tony Iommi, Dimebag Darrell, and even Cliff Burton, all rolled into one mute, faceless character who communicates only through his instrument, but beholden to none of its limitations.

There were no traditional verse-chorus-verse songs, no banter, nothing but Buckethead alone on stage playing guitar for an hour and a half, with the structure, or lack thereof, as if he was practicing at home. He clearly enjoyed himself, often breaking into stiff robotic movements even as he played, the impressive body control highlighted all the more by the wild guitar lines shrieking out of his seemingly-frozen hands.

The nonstop soloing was broken up by a brief nunchuck display and an exchange of toys with audience members, as is traditional at Buckethead concerts. Also contributing to the overall ‘weirdness factor’ was a Japanese monster movie projected onto screens on both sides of the stage, resplendent in its low-budget absurdity yet somehow meshing perfectly with Buckethead’s sci-fi guitarwork. Halfway through the night, though, the movie ended and the venue switched to a camera shot of Buckethead, allowing those further back to see the mind-blowing fingerwork that makes the guitarist one of the absolute best in the world.

The night wasn’t limited to guitar alone, as Buckethead also spent a few minutes thrashing on a bass guitar, a neat contrast to the pop n’ slap work that he’d been applying on his electric guitar in a full-on mashing of playing styles. He also made heavy use of a mysterious red button on his custom guitar, using it to help generate laser-like sound effects and even explosions, which led to one of the night’s highlights as he played through the Star Wars theme.

On some signal no one from the audience was able to spot, the night ended on an abrupt note, as Buckethead simply stopped playing, waved at the audience, and then walked off. It was a bizarre end, but no more so than the entire 90 minute experience from the chicken bucket-wearing guitar genius.

Through a carefully crafted persona (if it is a manufactured persona at all), Buckethead has established himself as a voiceless, faceless artist, trapped behind his frozen white mask with the guitar his only method of expression. Thus, out through the guitar pours his loves, his fears, his joys and his frenzies, every note brimming with emotion as he visibly delights in entertaining his cheering audiences without ever showing his face. It may not be radio friendly music (other than the guest vocal-filled Enter the Chicken record) and it’s certainly not traditional heavy metal, but anyone who has ever held a guitar and hit a power chord just to feel the rush has an intimate connection with Buckethead whether they know it or not. There may be no obvious rhyme or reason to what he does, but however, whatever, he does, it he does it better than anyone else out there.

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