GIG REVIEW: ULI JON ROTH – The Ultimate Guitar Experience Live at Omaha, NE
On the dreariest day of the year to date, the Ultimate Guitar Experience Tour rolled through Omaha, NE. The skies were grey and drab, the rain was intermittent and cold, and the wind still had its winter edge. Sitting at the Slowdown before the show, I could already tell that the depressing weather was going to have a big impact on turnout, as it always does here. As the doors opened and bodies began trickling in, the show got started. Andy Timmons was up first and despite the small crowd and dismal atmosphere; he jumped on stage like he was on at Wacken. His massive grin immediately warmed up the room as he started to play. I’ll be honest; I hadn’t heard much about Andy or Jennifer prior to this show, so I can’t give a very accurate song by song run through. Andy was absolutely fantastic, ripping through solo after solo, moving seamlessly between melodies and harmonies. He absolutely lit up the room and it was a genuine pleasure watching him play. Towards the end of his set, I took a quick look around the room and realized I was the youngest person there by about 15 years or more. It quickly turned from an awesome guitar showcase to a 30 year high school reunion with some guitars in the background. I’m really trying not to focus on how bizarre it felt, sitting in that room suddenly surrounded by long haired middle aged men in rock shirts they got from Walmart, but holy shit was it weird. For the record, I have no issue with any of these guys, they were a solid crowd that didn’t cause any issues and put out good energy for the artists to work with, but the age thing threw me pretty hard.
After Andy wrapped up, Jennifer came up on stage and threw me for another loop. Next to her on stage was a projection screen with video clips that I’m assuming were made to go along with the music. The music and videos paired really well and made for a cool aesthetic, but I could definitely tell it was not for my demographic. She looked like she came straight out of the 80’s with a sequined blazer and an affinity for pinch harmonics; and the crowd ate it up. Again, I was put in a really strange situation watching all of these men, my dad’s age and older, suddenly start watching the show much more intently. The atmosphere changed really quick and good god was that uncomfortable. Jennifer was awesome; she had great runs and really knew how to get all sorts of crazy sounds and textures out of her guitar. Watching her play was pretty cool, she looked very comfortable jumping all over the fretboard and I definitely picked up a few new tricks to work on myself.
Finally Uli Jon Roth came on, looking like an actual wizard. Thirty seconds in and I was dead certain he actually is a wizard. I’d caught a bit of their warm-ups during sound check, and was immediately blown away. They were causally running through songs with Uli in the middle of the stage wailing on his double neck Sky guitar occasionally telling the rest of the musicians on stage what to do. I later found out he was working on a full concerto piece. Actually getting to see the master himself tear it up was pretty incredible. I’d grown up listening to the Scorpions and not once did I think I’d ever get to actually see Uli in person, much less actually get to see him play. It was surreal watching him effortlessly change from flamenco to rock and back. Watching him play, at first, made me want to just sell off the rest of my gear, but as the show progressed, I realized this man is the inspiration for tens of thousands of musicians, to include a lot of guitarists I look up to, myself. I took it as a learning experience, watching Uli effortlessly drift from track to track. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it a hundred times, and Uli is a wizard. I’ve seen hundreds of guitarists play, but none have had the presence and command that he dictated so effortlessly. It was pretty incredible walking away from a show with so many new tricks and techniques I needed to learn. So despite the weather bumming everyone out, it was a pretty great night, full of amazing guitarists and a lot of old guys with long hair. I’d like to thank the venue, The Slowdown, for having as much great beer as they do, which helped me ignore the insanely weird atmosphere that was in the air that night and let me enjoy the incredible musicianship on display.