A night out at the Rockpile with guitarist Paul Gilbert

[Favourite photographer Andrei Chlytchkov was out with his camera again, this time to check out some tributes at The Rockpile in Toronto on June 1.Text by L. Benny Sanders. – AC]

The Rockpile (Etobicoke’s secret little lock-up), always a fun place to play music and listen to it being played, was host to two fine acts Saturday night.

The venue is decked out like a penitentiary complete with mug shots of everyone from Charles Manson to Johnny Cash and festooned with a police line-up wall and an electric chair. The place is a scream. (I’m performing there with my band ’67 as an opening act for the Rush tribute 2112, on June 8, 2019.)

The opening act, Ayden Jacobs Project (AKA Permanent Waves) offered up a selection of predominantly Canadian tunes, with (of course) a healthy selection of Rush covers. A trio of drums (Dave Langguth of Kim Mitchell Band), bass (Andy Narsingh) and guitar (Ayden of Kid Mitchell Band) presented a fist full of covers (and one original) that kept the crowd rockin’.

Jacobs and Narsingh shared vocal duties and over the 45 minutes treated us to “Still Believe in Love” (Jacksoul), “Limelight,” “Spirit of Radio,” and “YYZ” (Rush) and sang harmonious dual lead on “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” (Steven Bishop). It would seem that the real crowd pleaser though was “Elevate” (Winery Dogs).

The set concluded with a Streetheart tune, “Look at Me.” Permanent Waves (a tribute to RUSH) will play on Canada Day, July 1st, 2019 along with three other tribute bands.

I was fortunate enough to get chatting with Victor (who is touring as background support with the evening headliner Paul Gilbert). He kept me on track regarding the tunes Paul was playing and gave me some insights into the tour details and Gilbert’s life.

Drummer Bill Ray told me that he was loving the tour with Paul and that “Paul is the nicest guy on the planet”. The other members of the quartet are Timmer Blakely (Bass) and Paul’s wife Emi on keyboards.

The crowd clearly was up for it as Paul started into a blues tune (“Blues for Rabbit”) that covered just about every format of the genre including some funky stuff that I had never even imagined. He followed this up with a progressive jazz number (“Havin’ It”) that matched the diversity of the first number. Man, this guy’s fingers fly so fast, that I could not believe what I was hearing.

“(2, 3, 4) Everywhere Mary” included not only bits of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” but featured a lovingly crafted duet with Emi on the keys. Dang, it was almost romantic watching these two converse via their instruments. After that, he admitted, “I have no idea what we are doing next” (I can completely relate. That happens to me on stage on a nightly basis).

Photographer Andre interviewed Gilbert (a co-founder of the band Mr. Big) before the concert and asked him to talk about the tour. Paul said “This is my first solo tour in North America. My new album seems to be doing well with the people here, so I’m happy to finally at last get out to play here.”

I asked what Paul might choose to do as an additional project to his schedule if he had the chance. Foolish question. Between gigging and writing and producing nightly instruction videos (check out ArtistWorks.com) for eager students online (recorded live in the tour bus after his performances) he really has a fully packed 24 hours. (When does the man even sleep?)

Paul’s tunes begin with a story and he told Andre that even though he may write lyrics, he now lets the guitar sing the vocals so only he knows what the words are. A great example of this was the subject of a story he told the fans about “Sir, You Need to Calm Down” (the song he played right after telling us he didn’t know what was next.) The original inspiration came from an airplane ride he took during which time he had some issues with the trip. He started out with something funky (and played a bit of the song like that) then it transitioned into a blues (example performed), eventually received a Led Zeppelin edge and then finally (he admits) he stole something from one of his previous tunes (which he morphed enough so that no of us would notice) called “I’m Not Afraid of the Police” (he accented the licks using his eyebrows as he played it live for us). The tale was as long as the song itself, but a wonderful insight into not only how the piece came together, but also into the genius mind of the man himself.

In the interview, Paul had told us that they recorded the recent album basically live because he feels that once you do overdubs, the track is no longer listening to what you’re doing. On this tour, he is finally getting to use his own amp as they are riding in a tour bus to get around. They loaded up in Portland right from his home and headed out. Nice!

In the latter moments, Gilbert indulged us with a few covers, including (much to my all Canadian delight) “Fly By Night” (Rush). True to form, he sang the vocals with his guitar. He did likewise with a Beatles medley of “Bungalow Bill” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Life’s Been Good” (Joe Walsh), a number he reminded us was from the days when radio was really radio.

Paul jokingly told us that this was the time when the band was supposed to leave the stage and pretend to finish the concert, but he would not stoop to that level and so iced the set with Love is the Saddest Thing. The tune I expected to be a calm and romantic ballad turned out to be the kickin’-est, up-tempo funky rock number of the evening.

Well played Mr. Gilbert, well played.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.