Leo Kottke: Three Inspiring Live Performances

December 06, 2019 2 min read

Leo Kottke

Leo Kottke

Leo Kottke is a fingerstyle institution, and an inspiration to guitarists across the globe.

His unique blend of folk, blues and jazz and his distinctive syncopated, polyphonic melodies have earned him accolades and followers galore. And, his battles with adversity – he’s overcome partial hearing loss and a near career-ending bout with tendonitis – are testament to his dedication to his craft.

We’re big Leo Kottke fans here at Thalia; he’s on regular rotation on the Thalia HQ playlist. And, in the past few weeks, we’ve been trading notes on some of our top Kottke live performances that we’ve found through the audiovisual goldmine that is YouTube.

For today’s post, we’ve picked out three of our favorites. They’re all full performances, and they’re all proof – as if proof was needed – to why Kottke is such a hero to us all.

Let’s dive in!

 

Cologne, Germany, 11th January 1977

This performance, recorded live for German network WDR’s legendary Rockpalast show, this near-90 minute performance finds Kottke on top form. He’s playing in support of his eponymous 1976 record here – the first he released on Chrysalis. Highlights include a rousing version of “Hear The Wind Howl / Busted Bicycle” second song in. Kottke’s previously been dismissive of his vocal abilities – he once infamously described his singing voice as "geese farts on a muggy day" – but, his distinctive baritone compliments his playing wonderfully here.

Night Times Variety, Twin Cities Public Television November 28th 1981 (with Michael Johnson)

There’s something thrilling about watching two guitar greats riffing off each-other. Here, Kottke is paired with country/folk singer-songwriter Michael Johnson – he of “Bluer Than Blue” fame – for a half-hour performance on Twin Cities Public Television

Kottke and Johnson’s tender take on “Mona Ray”, which kicks off the show, is a real delight, as is Kottke’s solo rendition of “Pamela Brown,” which kicks off around the 14-minute mark.  

The true highlight of the performance, though, is beautiful version of “Old Fashioned Love” that rounds out the show. The synchronicity between the two players on this rendition – with Michael on six-string nylon and Leo on 12-string –  is something really special. 

Bottom Line, 1990

Finally, rounding out our list is this show, recorded for TV show “Bottom Line” in 1990. One YouTube commenter simply describes this as “picking porn” and we’re hard pressed to argue with that. Showcasing the classical picking style that he adopted after his battle with tendonitis, his burgeoning jazz influences really shine through on tracks like exhilarating opener “William Powell (Does Anyone Know His Name?).” The version of “Airproofing 2,” meanwhile, is mesmerizing, and a testament to Kottke’s phenomenal, pendulum-like right-hand playing. 

So which of these Leo Kottke moments was your favorite? Have you ever seen him live? And what do you think of his distinctive singing voice? As always, share your stories in the comments below. Oh, and if there’s a particular guitarist you’d like to see us cover, then let us know. Suggestions are always welcome!



Also in Fingerboard Stories

Gibson Oddities: The Ripper and Grabber
Gibson Oddities: The Ripper and Grabber

June 10, 2021 3 min read

While the Ripper and the Grabber were short-lived, they didn’t disappear from the limelight entirely. In the 1990s, a new generation of bass players including Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic, Green Day’s Mike Dirnt and Weezer’s Matt Sharp brought the forgotten instrument back into the public eye. For those musicians, the Ripper and the Grabber were dream pawnshop finds – solid, good-sounding instruments that wouldn’t break the bank.
Do Double Albums Outstay Their Welcome?
Do Double Albums Outstay Their Welcome?

May 14, 2021 3 min read

Sandinista! found critical acclaim upon release; Rolling Stone’s John Piccarella gave it a five-star review and called it the Clash’s White Album while Village Voice voted it number one in their 1981 Pazz and Jop critic’s poll.  But, in the aftermath of the initial hype, people started to question whether the record really was the Clash’s bona fide masterpiece.
Carlos Santana: Words of Wisdom
Carlos Santana: Words of Wisdom

May 07, 2021 2 min read

“There's a melody in everything. And once you find the melody, then you connect immediately with the heart. Because sometimes English or Spanish, Swahili or any language gets in the way. But nothing penetrates the heart faster than the melody.”