Greek Theatre Los Angeles, CA
Players: Bert Lams, Hideyo Moriya and Paul Richards (all guitar)
Material: The story of the California Guitar Trio is a fascinating one. First of all, none of the three musicians are from California; Lams is from Belgium, Moriya is Japanese, and Richards is from Utah. That in itself makes for a fascinating combo. The three met in 1987 at a guitar-craft course where King Crimson’s Robert Fripp taught them New Standard Tuning (NST). The trio continued to work together in L.A. (hence the name), and the California Guitar Trio was founded in 1991. It makes sense then, that they would open for King Crimson on this tour (the Zappa Band is also on the bill), creating a sort of family reunion. The CGT has gone from strength to strength since the lessons with Fripp and the early shows. Last year’s Elegy is their 19th album by our count (live and studio), and they performed “Alva” (from the “Guadella Trilogy”) from that album in L.A. Other tunes, such as “Andromeda” and “Yamanashi Blues,” are no less stellar, and they play a “did I hear that right” cover of Pink Floyd’s “Echoes.” Stunning.
Musicianship: This is where they excel. Much like the rest of the bands on this prog-heavy bill, the California Guitar Trio know exactly how to get the best out of their instruments. Effects pedals are employed, particularly by Richards, but they know what they’re doing. The crunch and distortion is used with precision. They allow the audience to sit back and just soak it all in.
Performance: Not a lot to report here. These guys aren’t going to leap up like Eddie Van Halen or strut like Angus Young. But still, there’s something very hypnotic about the way they stand in a line nodding at each other, essentially conducting each other in the absence of a drummer. At one point, they “hit” notes to each other as if they’re playing tennis with music and the guitars are the rackets. That’s as showy as they get, but it’s a fun moment.
Summary: Ultimately, this crowd is here for King Crimson and the Zappa Band. But the rapturous reception that greets the CGT speaks volumes. Their reputation has spread, and these guys are now well known to KC fans. They let nobody down with a set that is intricate, exciting, unpredictable and a thrill. It’s wonderful when a group of talented unassuming musicians can allow their music to do the talking for them, and they’re appreciated for it.