Andy Summers Rocks Phoenix

by Kevin Wierzbicki

Andy Summers - Nov. 1, 2023 - Musical Instrument Museum, Phoenix

After taking a couple of weeks off, Andy Summers, the former guitarist for The Police, resumed his The Cracked Lens + A Missing String tour in the music theater at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. The intimate venue was the perfect place for the sold out show that was a departure from the typical concert. Summers has long been an avid photographer and this concert found him playing songs both from his solo work and by The Police while his photography (and sometimes videos) were projected at the rear of the stage. The guitarist also told a few amusing stories and commented about the inspiration for most of the songs.

Summers was set up to the far side of the stage, leaving most of the stage wide open so that there was nothing to distract from the photography presentation. With a technician triggering pre-recorded backing tracks as well as the photo presentations that went with each song, Summers stood or sat by his small gear arrangement, switching between two electric guitars and working a few effects pedals. The first song Summers played was "Metal Dog," a cut from his 2015 album of the same name. Andy jokingly introduced the song with the quip, "I had a metal dog once. He's buried in my garden. Facing Japan." His commentary at song's end was no joke; he announced that he had forgotten to turn on his earpiece and couldn't hear his guitar at all during the song. Showing what a professional and consummate musician he is, there was nary a fluffed note in the performance. Summers is not a singer and everything he played this evening was an instrumental. With his playing on "Metal Dog" reminding of Robert Fripp, the song played out with a backing track that was loud and chunky and that ended cold.

The photo montage projected during each song corresponded to the place that inspired the tune; scenes of China appeared during "The Bones of Twang Zu" while sand dunes and other images of Morocco were shown during the ethereal cut from The Police, "Tea in the Sahara." Before playing the Thelonious Monk chestnut "'Round Midnight" Summers indicated he was a lifelong fan of the jazz pianist and noted that Monk would often play wrong notes that ended up sounding right. To that end, Summers joked that he'd try to throw in a few wrong notes in his cover but of course he did not. Summers' sense of humor, often self-deprecating, was on display throughout the show and a story he told early in the set was an example. Telling how he had taken an Ambien sleep aid with several glasses of wine on a flight to Sao Paolo, Brazil, Summers said he unintentionally got so whacked out by the combination that he recalled very little for more than a day, not even having to be carted off the plane in a wheelchair, an amusing photo of which was shown to prove he wasn't exaggerating. He also told a funny story about taking "magic" mushrooms with John Belushi in Bali where the psychedelics were at the time legal, and a story about kicking an abusive cop during a show by The Police in Argentina. Fearing he was going to be arrested after the show and mercilessly teased by Sting and Stewart Copeland about it, he ended up giving a backstage apology of sorts to the cop and only suffered the warning "Don't come back to Argentina!"

For his take on the huge hit by The Police "Roxanne" a video made for the show was projected and a story about having to judge a "Roxanne contest" where girls dressed up as they thought Roxanne might look was a mid-set highlight as was a reading of Luis Bonfa's samba delight "Manha de Carnaval." Paying tribute to his love of Indonesian Gamelan music, Summers performed "Triboluminescence" which led into two cuts by The Police to end the show; "Spirits in the Material World" and "Bring on the Night." After leaving the stage briefly Summers returned for an encore which was The Police hit "Message in a Bottle." The concert was not only a showcase for Summers' guitar prowess but also his knack for storytelling and his talent behind a camera lens.

Andy Summers remains on tour through mid-December and upcoming dates can be found here..

Upcoming shows at MIM include:

The Steel Wheels - Nov. 13, 2023
Radney Foster - Nov. 18, 2023
Cantus - Nov. 19, 2023
The Desert Rose Project: A Celebration of Sting - Nov. 24, 2023
Blind Boys of Alabama Christmas Show - Nov. 28 & 29, 2023
Max Weinberg's Jukebox - Dec. 1, 2023 (7pm and 9pm)
The Klezmatics: 2023 Hanukkah Tour - Dec. 8, 2023

To see all shows coming to MIM go here.

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