Sean Shibe softLOUD – St George’s, Bristol

Friday 8th March, 2019

A third trip to St George’s in as many days, I really do love this place and the range of music they host. I was recommended this gig by the venue, who know I like less mainstream music. I’ve not seen a solo guitar player before, and don’t think I’ve seen a classical guitar player either, and I’ve certainly never heard lute or flute or bagpipe music recomposed for guitar so tonight was always going to take me to new sonic territory.

Sean had put together a programme called softLOUD with gentle then angry music. The soft section opened with 18th Century lute music played on classical guitar. Music so old, that Scotland (the land of Sean’s birth) was an Independent and European facing nation and America was still a colony of England. From this Sean jumped straight into the 20th Century with music that “would comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable” which I found to be comforting. Make of that what you will.

After the interval things became LOUD with an electric guitar, tape loops and reverb. The Steve Reich piece Electric Counterpoint was ace, as you would expect of Reich. Lad, originally composed by Julia Wolfe for 9 bagpipes was ear-splitting, droney and challenging. It was angry, born of grief and played with controlled fury by a young man with a passion for making classical music stand away from being a dusty library. Somehow Sean made his electric guitar sound like bagpipes and as brilliant as it was it was also quite hard to listen to. The final piece, Killer by David Lang had Sean kicking a bass drum whilst riffing which lent an urgency to the music.

This was music on the edge, creative, challenging and interesting. I would like more classical musicians to get this angry!

As a listening experience to enjoy the first half, the soft, was much nicer. As an experiment in what you can do as a classical guitar player the LOUD was more interesting. Sean Shibe is a young musician to watch for sure.



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