ANTONIO Forcione may not presently be on every music lover’s radar but he should be.
Believe me, if you want to listen to someone who can extract extraordinary sounds from a guitar that others cannot, he is the man. Search him out.
On Monday night, at Crazy Coqs in London’s West End (part of Brasserie Zedel), Mr Forcione bedazzled his audience with a breath-taking set of music, taking in everything from John Lennon, Paul McCartney through to Michael Jackson and occasional tracks from his 19 albums.
No vocals, no drums (although he imagined their presence on an amusing version of Cool Cat, a tribute to composer Henry Mancini). Just him and his gently weeping guitars (two in fact) although sometimes it sounded like there was someone else playing in the room.
It was an extraordinary virtuoso performance, made all the more amazing for the fact that he was appearing after eight consecutive nights performing in Italy, Portugal and the UK.
Yes, he looked slightly frazzled as a result of all his travelling (San Marino one night, Faro the next followed by Colchester and Norwich ) and he had little idea whether he was playing one or two sets. But bar the occasional sound issue (not his fault), it did not detract from his playing.
To a man and a woman, the audience was hooked, especially when he played his version of Marvin Gaye’s Heard it Through the Grapevine. Rapturous applause ensued as it did after his version of Touch Wood (a track he admitted he had jammed to with Paul McCartney).
Starting with the Police’s Message in a Bottle (where he used all his guitar to extract sounds, not just the strings – a Forcione trait), he progressed to John Lennon’s Come Together before regaling us with tunes from his extensive back-book – Heart Beat, a track from album Sketches of Africa and a track inspired by the Alhambra in Granada (on albums Touch Wood and Ghetto Paradise). My colleague said they could smell, hear and visualise Granada (the fountains, the mosaics) as he played. Beautiful and painful.
Other highlights included McCartney’s Yesterday, Stevie Wonder’s Superstition and a beautiful interpretation of Cuban classic Guantanamera. Indeed this track gave us a foretaste of his next album – Sketches of Cuba.
Mr Forcione is a formidable musician, as happy performing on his own as he is with his quartet/trio or the sublime Sarah Jane Morris (last year’s joint Compared to What album is a must purchase).
Like Sarah Jane, his influences are worldwide – embracing jazz, Spanish, African, Brazilian and Cuban sounds. It makes for entertaining listening and you never quite know what to expect. Certainly, his version of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean was an unexpected surprise and delight.
On stage, Mr Forcione is modest, charismatic, unconventional and shy – all in one. My friend said he was also sensitive but then I think she had just fallen in love with him.
If you are in Birmingham this Friday (17 March) he is on stage with Sarah Jane Morris at St Paul’s Church in the Jewellery Quarter. Failing that he is making an appearance at the 606 club (Chelsea) on March 30 with Tammy Weis before returning to Crazy Coqs on April 7 and April 8 to play with Sarah Jane.
In between, he is performing in Innsbruck (with the Antonio Forcione Trio) and France (Sarah Jane).
Yes, he is a busy musician, fraying a little at the edges. But if you want to watch a musician ‘make love’ to their instrument (please note the inverted commas), an Antonio Forcione concert is for you.
Thank goodness his father bought him a guitar those many years ago when the drum kit he was infatuated with as a 10 year old (bought by his older brother) annoyed the shoemaker living in the downstairs apartment.
Having said that, Mr Forcione on drums? Could be interesting. Very interesting.
By Jeff Prestridge