November 19, 2008

Les Paul: A Living Legend

Monday night, MB and I joined our friends Kristin and Dave and headed back to the Iridium to see Les Paul. I'm not sure what was better, shaking hands with a pioneer of solid body electric guitar (Fender and Rickenbacher also get credit for the innovation) or watching him stop mid-solo to pose for a picture. Probably the latter. As the middle-aged man in the front row raised up from his chair for a close-up, Les stopped, smiled... and flipped the the most cheerful "bird" I've ever seen.

Les is an old man. Like, really old. 93 years old, to be exact. And yet every Monday, the dude plays two shows, one at 8 and another at 10:30. The shows are a mix of classic jazz numbers like All of Me and Somewhere Over the Rainbow and hilarious, often dirty stories featuring classic characters like Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. And because Les is literally from another generation, he gets away with a level of sexism that plays really well against the sass his female bassist dishes back in his direction. My favorite line from the evening? "I feel like a flagpole sitting on top of a condemned building."

The music/comedy portion of the show lasted a little over an hour and Les often used stories and guests performances to rest between solos. After a short break, he comes back out to meet any audience member who wants to shake hands or get the autograph of a living legend. Several people brought their own Gibson Les Paul guitars to be signed and it even looked like you could buy a guitar on the spot for him to sign. As I gave that concept a few fleeting moments of consideration, I confirmed, yet again, that I'd married the right woman when MB gave the sign of approval should I decide the opportunity was too good to pass up. It was also pretty wonderful when she leaned over and whispered in my ear, "We should catch more live jazz." In the end, I was satisfied with a handshake and a signed ticket.

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