The lovely Noelia Fernandez from Buenos Aires wrote two beautiful reviews of our acoustic gigs in Buenos Aires in February 2017. For all you Spanish speaking people out there – you are lucky. The articles are written in a beautifully personal, poetic, tell-tale-y way and even though Google Translator messes up the translation, have a read through the English version below. For the originals, click here:
The true magician among the spirits
Marty Willson-Piper and Olivia Dibowski, El Emergente Bar, 10th February 2017 by Noelia Fernandez. Photographs: Nazarena Talice.
I am certain of a thousand things
I know nothing of a million more
The silence will eventually ring
Just listen, just listen …
(Marty Willson-Piper. “Listen / Space”)
At about 8:30 pm that rainy Friday, I approach, anxiously, the door of El Emergente, which, as I had imagined before I arrived, was still almost hermetically closed. I sat on a step to read the newspaper when, after a few minutes, in an unexpected moment, the heavy gate opened for just some seconds, enough, however, for this chronicler to be able to recognize, backwards, the hero of the guitar, Marty Willson-Piper, who was arguing furiously with the sound technician. That was the abrupt beginning of the gap between the reality of the newspaper and the night that was waiting for me.
However, I feared, at that time, that this reality would push me back into the void and leave behind the wish that had been haunting me for decades. When we realized that, after closing the door again, the discussion continued, the few who were there wondered if, due to this conflict, the intimate concert of Marty and his faithful partner, German violinist Olivia Dibowski, would still be standing. I imagined myself taking bitterly the bus again to go home, disappointed, and with my soul empty. But when the place finally opened at 9pm, this time, to make the audience enter, all fears were dispelled. I calmed down and, at the same time, I got filled with anxiety (even more?). There, on the high stage of the obscure Emergente pub, I saw my hero, the legendary Marty Willson-Piper – former member of bands like All About Eve, The Church and The Saints; creator, in addition, of the original duo Noctorum, and architect of a beautiful and prolific solo career – tuning his guitar.
People hurry to settle in the place; some stand together around the tables, two post punk girls walk on very high heels looking for a place to stay. Marty asks them to sit down because, he says, it is not healthy to stay standing on those shoes. He also says, emphatically, that those who are speaking in the background should be silent. Just make silence “for only an hour. What important thing do you need to say while a musician is playing?“ – expresses in English language with an irritation that is immediately revealed as a passing state, but that at the beginning of the concert Marty drags from the sound check, failed because of the inefficiency and lack of interest of the technician; a true classic to which we, musicians from Buenos Aires, are almost already habituated.
As the audience comes in (“Are there any people out yet?” he asks in Spanish), Marty prepares the strings. He is anxious to play all the songs he has rehearsed, since there is little time because another band will play, later, on stage. He cares about making everyone understand him when he speaks, so that he makes big efforts to express himself in Spanish and, in the middle of the show, asks the audience for the words he does not know. He wants to know how many of those who fill the place understand English. He concludes, after complaining about the complexities and absurdities of Spanish grammar, that “sobre” (“about”) is a very important word that he must not forget, and the crowd laughs at the witty joke. He assures that English is easier than Spanish, to which I answer “nooo!” loudly. That would be the beginning of a friendly, spontaneous and fun exchange between the audience and the musician throughout the short show. Olivia, meanwhile, stands erect and silent. It is because she speaks through her violin; an original piece of the XVIII century that looks as if it was, almost, part of her slender figure.
As soon as the first arpeggiated notes of “Water” sound, I break down and cry, alone, sitting at the table that’s in front of the stage, but hidden. It was a moment that I had imagined a thousand times, but no one had been able to convince me that it would ever happen. The legendary 12-string acoustic Takamine –a classic instrument of Marty’s gear that I still could not believe I was seeing in the real life – sounds penetrating, powerful and deep like a waterfall, as if it were two guitars playing in unison; typical and very functional effect of guitars with duplicated strings.
Marty announces that the next song belongs to one of his favourite bands: Big Star. He seeks to inquire how many people know them. He wants to share his favorite music with the world. The encyclopedic project he created, In Deep Music Archive, has been precisely intended for this purpose. But the hesitant response he receives from the public disappoints him, and then he does not hesitate to urge emphatically the audience to buy Big Star albums next day, “at ten o’clock”, when all record stores in Buenos Aires are open. People, of course, burst into a laugh of as many, as if the intimate concert frequently became in a sort of stand up comedy in between songs.
Just after the show starts, this chronicler shouts: “You whisper !!!”; one of the songs that are part of the precious second solo album by Marty -Art Attack. He graciously reproaches my impatience and assures me that this is how heavy metal fans behave. We all laugh again immediately.
After a while, Olivia looks at me and smiles complicitly from the stage. She points to the set list that’s on the floor and, with a silent gesture, looks at me to notify that this so wanted song (but if it’s just one of all those that I dare to ask, only temporarily overcoming the embarrassment and throwing momentarily overboard my eagerness not to invade!) is next. “Where’s the Metallica fan?” Marty asks, following the joke started earlier. I raise both hands: “Here!” I shout joining him in the fun. Then he tells an imaginary and absurd story about the title of the song – always while mocking my anxiety – to conclude that, as a matter of fact, he ended up titling it “You whisper.”
While the song was playing, I perceive, down the stage, that Marty almost keeps his view on me, as if he wanted and could know what were all those invisible feelings that were happening inside me, or what I was feeling and thinking with that song that I had so often enjoyed and hummed in my loneliness for the last twenty-five years. Later, during the pleasant and interesting talk that we shared in a nearby restaurant, he would say, about himself and his experience as an inveterate music lover: “music pierces my soul”. I realize that this visceral description could also define me, and that it is what my face or expression, it seems, does not stop to make evident, because of the way I think he looks at me from above, even when I try to resist or dissimulate … It is as if, without words, he was saying: “you see? It was just a question of being patient: here you have what you asked for”. Anyway, maybe it’s just part of the epiphany in which I’m immersed due to the strings of the instruments and the typical raspy voice of my hero. This is how my mind, my heart and even my body flow as the warmest versions of Church classics like “Tristesse” and even “Into my hands”are playing, before which announcement a wide sigh is heard among the audience. Clearly; It’s me, who can not contain the thrill of being able to hear that perfect piece of Remote Luxury. The audience is also ecstatic, now, and silent before the deployment of songs.
The set continues with “After Eight”, the melancholic “Ugly And Cruel”, “High As A Kite” and “Chromium”; another classic of The Church that is in After Everything Now This, album that, according to Marty, nobody bought. Several people from the audience proudly contradict him – “I have it!”- we say. He then begins to count, as if it was a class at school, how many are the ones who raise our hands. “Five,” says, funny.
During the show, both musicians make eye contact and kiss each other like two teenagers between the songs. This is felt and perceived down the stage as a greeting, as gratitude, or perhaps as a mutual reward for a well done work or the shared pleasure for music. The connection between them is immediate and total, and he is in charge of lovingly complimenting his companion commenting with the audience how much he admires her beauty and talent as a musician. “She has great ease to learn the songs” he says, emphasizing her natural gift to interpret and adapt in violin all those classic guitar solos that, for example, in Church albums, were played by Peter Koppes, or Marty himself, who is in charge of the most rhythmic part tonight. But, above all, the host’s praise points to Olivia’s extraordinary and complete understanding of the music they play. The lady wears a beautiful evening dress that was bought in Buenos Aires that same afternoon – according to Marty himself tells in another of his enthusiastic comments during the show. I pondered myself her outfit when I greeted the violinist. She commented that it was “too long to dance tango”.
Then, the most waited moment for many people in the audience comes. The first chords of “Under the Milky Way” make their appearance, but Marty stops abruptly and threatens – always joking with the audience – not to play it. However, this Church superclassic so classic that it was even integrated into the soundtrack of the film Donnie Darko and has been, very often and unfairly, the only song that audiences know takes its road back and glides with no pauses or new practical jokes along with the voices of the audience that sings the well-known chorus. The excellent harmónica solo offered by the studio version is brilliantly performed by Olivia’s strings, which also improvises on the end, where originally Koppes played a dark and somber ride of a Fender Floyd Rose.
And the end is coming. The show is – or is made – extremely short for everyone. It’s not possible! Just one hour? It was true, then … Good things last little. Naturally, the school children of the audience protest and kick, but the teacher Marty makes clear that he cannot keep on playing because the other band is coming… And promises a new show for the next few days, which is, of course, celebrated by everyone. “Come. I can play some other songs; I have many! “he proposes, as if he was a seller trying to place on the market a product that is not really good at a glance … And as if it was necessary to convince someone to live such an unforgettable and incredible experience again! Obviously, after this announcement, we all left more or less quietly. An interesting, warm and entertaining conversation with Marty and Olivia was waiting for us at the door of El Emergente and the nearby restaurant.
After two o’clock in the morning, having said goodbye to the lovely couple and to all those people who had the privilege of sharing that night with them, I got on the bus which took about forty minutes to come still wondering if what I had experienced had really happened. I put on the headphones. Gold Afternoon Fix sounds from start to finish. The same raspy voice that I heard a while ago sings the most rocker song of the album; “Russian autumn heart”. I watch the view from the bus window and I see a madman at a corner playing some Beatles music with a beautiful replica of a Rickenbaker, alike to one that Marty lost in a robbery. I conclude that it did happen: what I had waited for so many years, really occurred that night. I smile gladly as I understand that reality is not (just) what the newspaper tells.
I am not sleepy. As I come home, I sit and write.