One of a few select joint performances by these two English guitar greats, this well-attended Perth Festival of the Arts concert began and ended with them playing as a duo, between times individually showcasing Taylor’s jazz-based artistry and Simpson’s wide-ranging mastery of British and American folk styles.
Martin Taylor and Martin Simpson
The opening number, a lingering instrumental version of Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time, substantially epitomised both the virtuosic strengths and occasional niggling weaknesses of the pairing, in that their lovingly wrought, immaculately rendered interplay seemed somewhat squandered on the song’s underwhelming tune. Taylor’s material seemed prone to such shortcomings, as in the first number of his solo slot, penned by Brazil’s Louis Essa, which combined technical and improvisational fluency with an anodyne melodic core, and his own composition Angel’s Camp, another duet, which he frankly described as “not really a tune – just a groove”. For the devoted guitar buffs in the audience, this was plenty, given the wizardry both men can apply to even such basic foundations, but in terms of fully-fleshed musicality, such workouts – like most of Simpson’s songs, where his vocals seemed merely a vehicle for the guitar parts – proved less than satisfying.
And while it seems almost churlish to quibble with the panoply of outstanding prowess on display, from Simpson’s minutely modulated slide technique to Taylor’s artfully blended tonal and textural palette, there was little sense of either being inspired beyond their usual limits; a dearth of pyrotechnics or passion that made the show no more than the sum of its parts.