Over the years Michael Hedges has alternately described his music as "acoustic thrash," "heavy mental" and "savage myth guitar." It was all those things and then some at Lisner Auditorium Saturday.
If Hedges hasn't exactly reinvented acoustic guitar playing, he's certainly blazed a few new trails. Often so fiercely percussive and contrapuntal that they sounded as if they were being performed by a trio consisting of guitar, bass and percussion, his solo arrangements of "Ritual Dance," "Rickover's Dream," "The Rootwitch," "Ragamuffin" and other tunes were a far cry from the comparatively polite and rhythmically rigid styles favored by both finger-picking traditionalists and new-age noodlers. To one degree or another, nearly every piece was colored by an exotic tuning, two-handed tapping techniques, full chord hammer-ons and pull-offs, artificial harmonics and resounding slaps to the body of the guitar. Even some whammy-bar sustain entered the picture when Hedges unveiled an electric descendant of the Dyer harp guitar.
While a little of Hedges' pyrotechnics can sometimes go a long way on record, in concert he's an engagingly kinetic and offbeat performer with a surprisingly strong singing voice. That alone explains why the audience was so quick to embrace his quirky cover version of "She Drives Me Crazy" and other Top 40 hits.
For some folks, at least, the roundup of Texas-based singer-songwriters at the Birchmere on Friday night turned out to be too much of a good thing. Clocking in at more than 4 1/2 hours, the concert ran so late that a sizable segment of the audience had to leave before hearing Robert Earl Keen, Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark jam together onstage.
Not that it mattered much. By then Clark's voice was all but shot as the trio loosely reworked "Homegrown Tomatoes" and other songs that it didn't know nearly as well. Amusing as it was, the concert's highlights came much earlier in the evening when each of the songwriters performed alone.
Keen, for one, never sounded better. Like Clark and Van Zandt, he delivered several terse yet vividly descriptive narratives and character sketches -- short stories, really -- and sang them in a dry, grainy, emotionally taut voice. He also punctuated most of his tunes with an even drier sense of humor. Van Zandt injected some laughter as well, though his set list and even some of his jokes have become awfully familiar over the years. Still, he sang "If I Need You" and "Poncho and Lefty" as if he were unveiling them for the first time.
Clark, on the other hand, did emphasize some new tunes that proved he hasn't lost his knack for turning incidents real and imagined into memorable songs. Huskier than ever and obviously overworked, his voice initially had an effective, world-weary edge to it, especially on "L.A. Freeway," before it began to fade altogether.
It's been three years since Fleetwood Mac came up with the lineup that performed at Capital Centre Wednesday night, enough time for it to appear that former singer-songwriter and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham is not only gone but nearly forgotten.
Except for a few moments when the six-piece band (augmented by two backup singers, a keyboardist and a percussionist) recalled Buckingham's contributions, the group essentially followed the advice of one of his best-known tunes: "Go Your Own Way." Dotted with featured roles for all the members (save for retiring bassist John McVie), the show benefited from terrific vocals by Christine McVie and refreshingly understated ones by Stevie Nicks, who sounded far better than she did on her recent solo tour. As a result, "Rhiannon," "Dreams," "You Make Loving Fun," "Landslide" and the new "Save Me" all came off without a hitch, each sounding as good, if not better, than the recorded versions. Of course, Nicks was her usual tediously theatrical self at times; wrapped in satin and lace, her arms outstretched during a series of slow pirouettes, she often looked as if she were taking part in a seance rather than a rock concert.
Mick Fleetwood, on the other hand, was more than happy to clown it up. During a long-winded version of "World Turning," the 6-foot-6 drummer stepped out front wearing a vest with touch-sensitive pads connected to a drum machine and synthesizer. The device allowed him to play his upper torso (and sometimes below the belt) while engaging Ghanaian percussionist Isaac Asante in a drum duel laced with naughty gestures and effects. As for the newcomers, Billy Burnette capably handled Buckingham's vocals and some lightweight songs off the "Behind the Mask" album, while Rick Vito played lead and slide guitar so well that it more than made up for his lackluster singing, especially on the early Mac blues "Stop Messing Around."