A good crowd rolled into Mareel for the final night of the Shetland International Guitar Festival. The name of the final performance – Shetland Guitar Heroes really ought to have given the game away, but few seemed to know what to expect from a lineup that included local artists Ewan Nowak, Arthur Nicholson, Alan McKay, and Robbie Walterson as well as festival curator Martin Taylor and his proteges.
As it was the event was underway with around 30 youngsters who are students at High Level Music – and the youngest of them were very young indeed.
The ensemble got underway with snatches of some old favourites like the Ferry Boat Song and Froggy Went a Courtin’ before the youngest bairns, who had captivated the audience with their enthusiasm, left the stage.
The intermediate group went on to entertain with Molly Malone, Love Me Tender and Skip To Ma Lou, ably prompted by Brian Nicholson of High Level.
The “seniors” took over with more demanding songs like Day Tripper, Crossroads and Apache, this time with Arthur Nicholson on vocals and Archer Kemp keeping the whole thing steady on drums. 20 odd guitars backed by two basses on Crossroads was something to hear – a bit like Status Quo playing in a hall of acoustic mirrors.
Next, around half of Martin Taylor’s 24 guitar students, who had been on a three-day retreat with the maestro. The picks of these were probably Stewart from Tunbridge Wells, who duetted with Taylor, and Nora, all the way from LA, who joined them on stage with her lively fiddling.
But the main event of the night followed after the break when the serious business started with a line up of Novak and Nicholson on guitar, superbly backed by Peterson and Kemp. The generic metal-lite Summer Song was first track and played at formidable volume – despite that the sound was crystal clear with the instruments perfectly balanced.
Walterson took over the lead guitar for Hendrix’s Red House, and carved out a spine-tingling version of the “probably” best rock guitarist who has ever lived’s song. It was an awesome intro to the gig for the young Wast Sider.
Alan McKay joined the lineup for a self-penned number that could have been influenced by the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac and even Glen Campbell.
Fleedwood Mac’s Oh Well followed with Nicholson on lead before Peterson played a funky intro to the unexpected Get Lucky (thankfully better than Daft Punk’s original).
McKay then played a solo number, Land of Fire, on acoustic that sounded a bit like Norwegian Wood – if the Beetles song had been written by Nick Drake.
More classics followed including Stormy Monday and a Satriani number that gave Nowak licence to launch into some incredible, fast and furious fretwork.
Taylor, Nicholson Sr, and the whole shebang of retreat students took the stage for Sweet Georgia Brown, then trooped off again so the local guitar heroes could finish with Freddie King’s I’m Going Down.
Anyone who went to Mareel will have been poleaxed by the standard of musicianship on display – most of it courtesy of the local heroes.