Thomas Leeb Concert & Presentation "Modern Fingerstyle Guitar Techniques, Percussion and Groove," September 19 & 20, 2010

On September 19 and 20, 2010, the Rochester Guitar Club (RGC) hosted a concert and a presentation featuring internationally renowned fingerstyle guitarist Thomas Leeb. These events were some of the most exciting and informative to date and the story behind making the event happen is not only amusing, but also indicative of Thomas’ good nature and laid-back attitude.

During the Christmas season of last year, my wife offered to purchase some of Thomas’ sheet music as a gift to me. (She’s a keeper!) He sells this direct from his website I saw that the prices were all in Euros so I e-mailed him to ask him how I might purchase his e-books with U.S. Dollars. He e-mailed me back immediately to let me know what the conversion rate was and advised me to pay that amount with U.S. Dollars via PayPal. He even cut me a deal for buying both of his books!

Subsequent e-mails were sent back and forth with me asking him question after question regarding his very technically and physically demanding songs. He answered every one of them promptly and tirelessly. In passing I made mention of the RGC and asked him if he would consider doing a concert and/or a presentation for us. Much to our surprise he not only agreed, but was very excited at the prospect! He said that he used to do gigs by request like this in Europe all the time and it was usually a great experience and always made him new fans and new friends.

Nine months, seemingly endless coordination, and countless e-mails went by before I picked him up at the airport on the Saturday before the recent events. It wasn’t very long before I could tell why winning over a new group of people was easy for him. He is a very talkative, personable and worldly person. Most of his time on the day of the concert was spent practicing, and his performance reflected just how much practicing he has done over the years.


Dreaming Out Loud—Jerry Preston & Chuck Bianchi

The show was opened by local duo “Dreaming Out Loud,” comprised of Jerry Preston (former RGC presenter, February 2007) and Chuck Bianchi on acoustic guitar and bass respectively. They kicked off the evening with a set of all original music from their self-titled first album and a yet to be released second album, as well as a medley of Michael Hedges tunes. Jerry and Chuck’s sound was very tight and in sync. The mood that their music created ranged from ambient to explosive and everywhere in between. They delivered a stellar performance and set the stage for the headlining act in inspiring fashion.


Thomas Leeb in Concert

Thomas then took the stage and announced before performing that he would be using the night’s audience as “guinea pigs,” playing songs to appear on his new album titled “No Alibis” scheduled to be released late 2010 or early 2011. This was the first time they have been played in front of a live audience. He opened the set with one of those new songs coupled with a bit of a surprise wrapped up in a beautiful medley. Before playing he posed the question: “What if Eric Clapton spent some time in my native country of Austria?” He then began playing a leisurely waltz that turned into an arrangement of “Wonderful Tonight” arranged for a 3/4 time signature! Somewhat comical but brilliantly executed, he kept the audience captivated the rest of the night with compositions of exceptional texture, infectious grooves, and beautiful melodies. The audience gave a standing ovation at the end of his performance, and he was kind enough to do a meet and greet with everyone who wished to partake before leaving the venue.


Thomas Leeb at the Presentation

The following night, before the regular RGC monthly meeting where Thomas was scheduled to present, I took him to get a little taste of Rochester with a visit to a quasi-museum, that is, the world famous “House of Guitars” followed by an equally infamous Rochester delicacy, the Garbage Plate! With our minds racing and our bellies full we arrived at Abilene’s Bar & Lounge to set up shop for a presentation to be given titled “Modern Fingerstyle Guitar Techniques, Percussion and Groove.” Thomas started off by giving himself a brief introduction, and as one might imagine, after having seen him do what he does, one might have a lot of questions. He managed to cover a lot of ground regarding the aforementioned topics just from attendees asking questions like, “What in the world was that?” and “Could you do that again, only slower?” Additional topics included the physics behind and practical uses for several different varieties of harmonics, fingernail care and maintenance, scratch plates, arranging and songwriting techniques and many more. All questions, both elementary and advanced, were answered with a smile and an equal sense of professionalism. I personally feel that every guitar player who was there came out of Thomas’ amazing presentation with at least one piece of information that will benefit them.


Thomas Leeb & RGC host Mark Grover

After dropping Thomas off at the airport the following day I found out that he had a heart-to-heart talk with my wife telling her to encourage me to write some music of my own. This solidified my impression that he is not only a great songwriter and performer; he is also a shining ambassador of the guitar as well as the power of music in general. More than that, he is a very likable person and someone I now consider a friend. We hope to have him back again someday.

—Mark Grover
Photos: Dave Townsend, Kelly Grover, Richard Taglieri

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