Columbus Dispatch (September 29, 1998)

Guitarist Kottke christens the reborn Southern Theatre

by Curtis Schieber

      Nary a negative word was heard, onstage or off, about the reborn Southern Theatre during its debut concert last night featuring Leo Kottke and Maura O'Connell.

      That includes a peculiar story that guitarist Kottke told about a performance in a similarly refurbished theater in New Zealand that gave him the "creeps."

      He learned later the theater's designed hanged himself in the dressing room after seeing his finished work.

      "These places really can have a presence, and it can go terribly wrong," he said. "It's nice to be here." In his own way, the guitarist meant it as a compliment.

      The dark humor -- shot through with a healthy does of sentimentality -- infused a good deal of his work last night, especially the instrumentals. A lovely piece written by easy-listening music icon Bert Kaempfert, whom Kottke described as a "junior version of Leroy Anderson," found the performer stating the charming melody and fostering its evolution as though it were a classical suite.

      He deftly played the bass, chords and melody parts as though he were three musicians.

      With songs such as Paul Siebel's Louise and a clever reworking of the traditional Corrina, Corrina, Kottke warmly entertained.

      He had established such a rapport that his vocal on Corrina, sung much too low for his range because he'd forgotten his capo, was received eagerly.

      His style, which blends the roots of folk, blues, pop and jazz, went down like honey in the packed house.

      Later, Kottke shielded his eyes from the spotlight to look afar into the third floor balcony and commented, "I don't wanna connect with a balcony and find out at the end of the night there is no balcony."

      He was still wowing 'em 70 minutes later after he started, when deadline called me away... [snip]

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