Antonio Forcione is a regular visitor to the Fringe and has built up a considerable following. I am a late convert, having only discovered him last year on a friend’s recommendation. I had got myself into a musical rut as so often happens as one gets older so it is so good to find a new genre of music (memo to self – listen to more of Jim Welsh’s show on ECFM on a Sunday to get just that!)
Last year, Antonio brought a talented band of musicians with him. This year Antonio has just brought himself, a couple of guitars and his phenomenal skill and talent. He opens with “I Heard it Through the Grapevine”, the same Marvin Gaye 60’s classic that opened last year’s show but with a totally different sound and feel. He tells us that tonight he will be playing a selection of songs from the 50s, 60s, and the 70s as well as some of his own compositions. Next up and representing the 70s is the Beatles’ “Come Together” and he plays all the band’s parts using only his guitar virtuosity – the distinctive bass intro, melody and even Ringo’s drums. He may be only one man on stage but he sounds like we have the full band. The only thing missing of course is the voice part and, oh dear, Antonio seems to be about to invite us to singalong : “ If any of you would like to join in….please don’t!” Phew, we are saved – now we can just sit back, relax and enjoy the music.
For the 50s we have Dave Brubeck’s ever popular hit “Take 5” and among his own compositions we have his tribute to Nelson Mandela “Madiba’s Jive”, “Heartbeat” and a number dedicated to the flamenco guitarist Paco di Lucia who died in February of this year “Tears of Joy”. He can play anything in any style it seems.
In between numbers he has a relaxed easy banter with the audience and shares with us snippets from his life and musical career: busking in Covent Garden, playing “Superstition” to Stevie Wonder in a London pizza parlour, his love of Africa and its people and music. Finally he tells us of his first trip to the Fringe in 1991 with a musical comedy group and he finishes the set with a whimsical number from those days called “Acoustic Revenge”. I could have listened to him all night but sadly, the Fringe doesn’t run to that length of show but still a very satisfying hour and a quarter.