Albany Democrat-Herald (December 28, 1997)

Injured Kottke Still Jams for River Rhythms Show

By Cory Frye

       A crowd of about 6,000 chanted for an encore, but legendary fingerpick guitarist Leo Kottke was gingerly taking his time getting up the back stairs of the Monteith Riverpark stage Thursday night.

      Every step caused a wince. He had kidded about his intermission injury during the second half of his River Rhythms performance, but his right ankle was now beginning to nag his ambling movements fiercely.

      "Man," Kottke said, flinching as he slid his trusty 12-string over his shoulder, "it didn't feel this bad when it happened."

      During the intermission break, he attempted to scale the backstage fence by grasping the rail, then hoisting his body over the top. He thought the fence was sturdy and solid but discovered otherwise when he tumbled over and that particular section came crashing down on his right ankle.

      After the concert, he was taken to Albany General Hospital, where he was treated and released.

      Kottke's concert inspired $2,200 in donations, doubling the $1,100 raised during The Iguanas' performance last Thursday. Apparently, none of the audience heeded Kottke's wry suggestion to wait for the collection plates to reach them, then "take as much as you want."

      River Rhythms coordinator Lynell Stoakes was pleased with the outcome, noting that both attendance and donation totals were pleasant surprises.

      "There are more people here than I anticipated," she said. "I think the Dixie Chicks (the country act that opened the seven-week series and set a 16,600 attendance record) shied a lot of people away. But after last week's show, I think people are realizing that it's not always like that - that crazy. And the crowd was diverse, which is the ultimate goal of River Rhythms. All in all, it was a good concert."

      Unlike previous River Rhythms performers, Kottke's set was particularly sparse. He was supported by neither backup band nor additional singers; his only other prop besides a chair and a microphone was a second acoustic guitar, resting against a stand and tuned for action.

      With both, he picked intricate paths through Kottke standards like "Morning Is the Long Way Home" and "Sweet Louise" before ending the night with his own 12-string take on Tom T. Hall's "Hallowed Ground."

      Kottke lived up to his longstanding reputation as a storyteller, peppering the spaces between songs with erudite patter and tales of his past. More recent events warranted mention during the second half when the ever-gracious (and now seated) troubadour sheepishly admitted to his intermission acrobatics.

      "I tune guitars better," he confessed, "when my feet don't hurt."

      But his injury couldn't stop Kottke from greeting the 20 fans assembled just beyond the same railing that had dogged his leg less than an hour before. He chatted and willingly signed anything handed to him: guitars, torn scraps of paper and numerous LP copies of his 1969 debut, "6 and 12-String Guitar."

      One belonged to Terry Church of Eugene, who was celebrating her 24th wedding anniversary with husband David.

      "Eric Clapton may be God," she said, "but Leo and a 12-string - that's singing with the angels."

      The River Rhythms concert series at Monteith Riverpark continues July 30 with world beat artist Baaba Mall. The free show starts at 7 p.m. and vendors begin selling food at 5:30. The blanket area in front of the stage opens at 4 p.m.

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