Leo Kottke back in his Ordway days

Leo Kottke back in his Ordway days

 

Leo Kottke back in his Ordway days/ Star Tribune file

 

In concert, Leo Kottke is the funniest instrumentalist in the history of recorded music.
OK, that statement might sound hyperbolic, but he was so consistently hilarious between songs Monday at his return to the soldout Guthrie Theater that I’m still chuckling.
Kottke, who has played post-Thanksgiving concerts in the Twin Cities for 25 years (mostly at the Ordway and most recently at the State Theatre), has always been funny in an oddball way but he has never been funnier in his hometown. He told a series of stories (some of which hardcore fans may have heard before) that were just a hoot. And it started before the guitar god even played a note.
His handpicked opening act Robert Barto, a superb German lutenist, introduced his final piece by saying that it was a Kottke request and also the most difficult piece in his repertoire to play. Naturally, when Kottke hit the stage, he announced: “I’m going to play all my easy stuff.”
Actually, he did plenty of fancy picking on 6- and 12-string acoustic guitar. (He played into a lone microphone, an old-school setup he rarely uses anymore.) And he sang a few songs, including the familiar “Louise,” “Corinna Corinna” and “Rings.” And he talked between songs. A lot.
Per usual, his stories came out of nowhere and often ended up far afield. But they were captivating with quirky punchlines. The twist and turns are half the fun.
Kottke chatted about going to the hospital for frozen  feet during his St. Cloud State years, shooting  a cover photo for American Airlines magazine, trying to master the German language, loving the Dick Tracy comic strip since 3rd grade, recalling a biology lesson from  8th grade (“Lady Gaga will not tell you that”) and  listening to 99-year-old Mississippi John Hurt perform a song for his even-older girlfriend, among other topics.
The only thing that could have elevated the levity: a ASL interpreter trying to convey Kottke’s big words, German phrases and delightfully twisted comments.
During one story, the guitar virtuoso even broke up laughing. “I’m having a better time than you are,” he explained.
With performances like this one, people will go for the humor and stay for the world-class guitar work.

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