It seems that everything these days is a “YouTube sensation”, from angry babies to sleepy pandas. But one man, Andy McKee, truly deserves the title. With a string of videos which have each garnered well over a million views and one, “Drifting”, with over thirty-six million hits and counting, McKee’s laid-back and yet ferociously talented style of guitar (and harpguitar) playing has been building an appreciative world-wide audience since 2006 – all the more impressive when one considers the fact that he is almost entirely self-taught.
It would seem strange that a performer whose work is so timeless – he could have come from any time in the last fifty years – has been given his big break by such a ruthlessly modern innovation as YouTube, but such is the nature of musicianship in today’s world.
Widely recognised as one of the world’s foremost acoustic guitarists (and the fact that you probably haven’t heard of him says a lot about the stature of world-class acoustic guitarists) McKee has recorded with American superstar Josh Groban on his Christmas album Nöel, which ended up being the biggest-selling CD of 2007; he was also a very well-regarded finalist at the prestigious National Finger Style Guitar Championships in Windfield, Kansas. It would seem, therefore, that McKee is well overdue for his big mainstream breakthrough – this may well be your last chance to see him in such an intimate setting.
With his performance in Brighton at Komedia falling right in the middle of a 16-date UK tour stretching from Jersey to Leeds and back, one would hope that he would have settled into the playing routine by the time he reaches our little sea-side town and will be in perfect shape to give his best ever performance. In addition, with six albums’ worth of material under his belt and a well-established pleasure in performing interesting covers (his latest album, Joyland, features a take on the Tears for Fears hit “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” there’s a degree of the unexpected which you wouldn’t get at, say, the average U2 concert – although there are markedly fewer lasers at a typical McKee show.
His grounded, unpretentious manner – traits oddly rare amongst your common-or-garden instrumental genius – also means that his shows are not simply a string of dazzling guitar histrionics but rather shows in the truer sense, strung together with witticisms and stories from the life of a moderately successful travelling guitarist.
All in all this promises to be a great night out for those looking for something a little outside the ordinary on February 13, especially those who value true instrumental talent in this age of the computer-generated rhythm and Auto-Tuned voice.