Jon Gomm is back hosting his Leeds Guitar Nights in Leeds city centre. Having missed a few years due to the demands of touring the world and becoming a Dad, he has found a bit of time to arrange another gathering of some of the world’s finest guitar players in this small Northern city. Jon has brought many ultra talented guitarists like Italy’s Pino Forastiere and Giuliano Modarelli, Leeds Brendan Croker and Canadian Erik Mongrain to various venues like the Wardrobe and Brudenell Social Club. Tonight sees the Hifi Club play host to 3 mega stars that you have yet to discover, Austrian Thomas Leeb and Bath’s Stuart Ryan.
Stuart Ryan’s guitar playing is beyond words… he can play most songs effortlessly it seems, and with a cheeky smile encroaching every time. People go to him to get impossible songs tabbed, such is his skill level. This is not his first Guitar Night and will no doubt not be his last.
Jon should be proud of where he has got to today. It was many moons ago when I saw him play at Clarence Park festival in Wakefield and naively asked where the samplers were on his battered acoustic guitar. Now years on and that battered guitar Wilma is sister to a signature Lowden guitar, and rightly deserved of so. Jon and Wilma have since toured the world, and the exponential growth of his fans from the explosion of ‘Passionflower’ going viral is evident tonight. Where once Jon had become visibly fed up as he struggles to be heard over peoples babble whilst playing in pubs to having sold out shows where everyone is transfixed on you must be one hell of a ride. The years and years of graft have finally paid off.
Showing the likes of ‘Wukan Motorcycle Kid’ with a unique way of creating a distinctive sound, to the now classic and requested ‘Hey Child’ where the tired looking Wilma screams into life as a reborn electric axe for an epic solo to the layered up mega garden of sounds that is ‘Passionflower’ featuring Jon’s complex vocals it is a wonder this guy was not famous years ago. With one set of fingers scurrying over the fretboard like a dancing spider whilst the other gently taps and scratches the guitar body the comments of “Fucking genius man!” behind me after the songs was great to hear.
Jon also likes to chat with the crowd. Having spoken openly about his anxieties with performing and beyond how he does this is an inspiration. The comedy banter too between songs and whilst introducing Thomas Leeb break the mesmerised crowd barrier down also. “He’s my favourite guitarist alive. There are three or four dead ones I prefer but…”
The people here can distinguish good guitarists and experts of complex guitar skills. The performers tonight certainly rise above the majority of guitar players out there today. The as Jon calls it ‘Jazz club’ setting of the Hifi club is great for a show like this; intimate but relaxed. I do not recommend turning up late with a velcro coat though, the basement venue is very toasty and velcro is damn loud!
Thomas Leeb has been made to headline by his friend Jon he tells us. An Austrian living in California having studied there, he says a lot of his songs inspiration comes from the mountains of Austria and the scenes of California along with many other random parts. Jon met him playing upstairs in a bar in Doncaster and they have become close friends ever since, playing many times on the same tours. Thomas has funny tales about each song as there are no lyrics, his amazing and calm guitar playing speaks for itself. The beautiful lullaby for his daughter, who has told him that guitars are boring(!) to his thoughts on performing leading to the song ‘Fishbowl’ and its crazy beat, to a song about his passport ‘Oachkatzlschwoaf’ which means tail of a squirrel but is used to prove if someone is Austrian and not German as the latter struggle to pronounce it (as I think many of us would), to a cover of Bobby Meferrin’s ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ about losing a green card and Bob Marley’s ‘No Woman No Cry’. Newer track ‘The Trickster’ is the song about everyone’s friend who is a jerk and has something similar to a rap beat. ‘Breath and ‘The Desert Pirate’ are merged as a set ender.
As a nice encore all three guitarists are back on stage to jam for us. The first is Jon leading with his cover of Radiohead’s ‘High and Dry’ with Stuart and Thomas adding their own touches to the song. The second and last tune of the night is more of a jam between the three, with Stuart really pushing his skills through and it ending in a fit of giggles. What an amazing night to witness. More of the same next year please!