Andy McKee


Tonight, I’m seeing Andy McKee for the second time in Manchester. The first being at Gorilla late last year, in which Andy advised he may not be back for a while in order to work on a new album. I’m glad that plan seems to have changed and I’m able to witness his playing again so soon (the album is now due early next year). The venue this evening is St Anne’s Church and the pews are definitely comfier than the seats Gorilla provided at the previous show, and we even get a cup of coffee and biscuit for £1.20! A good cheap coffee and a biscuit is always going to put me in good spirits.

Once introduced, Andy enters down the aisle, no backstage curtains here. He quickly tunes up for the first of many times tonight, having as many peculiar tunings as tracks, and begins with a powerful foot-stomping opening piece. His percussion is as much a part of the guitar tunes as the notes themselves and the hall resonates with each stomp and slap of the guitar’s body.

The main delight of watching Andy play is the enjoyment you can see in his facial expressions, feeling every nuanced note, chord and tap. Even having been playing for so long, he notes tonight that it has been over a decade since ‘Drifting’ went viral on YouTube, which he says changed his life forever. ‘Drifting’ is always going to be a crowd-pleaser and tonight is no exception as he flows through the track perfectly.

He plays a number of earlier tracks from his journey into fingerstyle guitar, naming one as the first song he wrote. It definitely doesn’t sound like a “my first guitar track” (mine was pretty much A minor for a solid 2 minutes) and fits in comfortably with the rest of the set. Along with early tracks, Andy talks of and plays some of his early influences, from Fleetwood Mac creeping into the middle of one of his own pieces to full Don Ross and Michael Hedges tracks. He is very humble and passionate when talking of these artists, even though he is definitely of equal match. Along with fingerstyle, he names 80’s rock as a huge influence and throws out a spectacular cover of Toto’s ‘Africa’ in his own specialised style. Although he lets the guitar do the singing, drumming…guitar-ing and everything else with complete ease, you can catch him mouthing the words as he plays – who can’t sing along to a good Toto track?

Standout tracks for me are ‘For My Father’, an astonishingly beautiful track, and the heartfelt ‘She’, written for his now wife which he “likes to think has something to do with it.” The set list ends with the delicate ‘Rylynn’ from the album Art of Motion. It is my second favourite (after ‘For My Father’) and it is played perfectly, finishing gently with a quiet double-tapping melody. He leaves the stage to meet and greet fans, hawking signed guitar picks which he admits is an oddity of the merch stall as he doesn’t even use them!

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