Michael Hedges at Phoenix Hill

By Joshua D. Smith

There are few artists in the world who can get away with standing on their heads, performing yoga on stage, and acting out Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky", complete with a handy sword for the slaying of the savage beast. Michael Hedges is one of those few. His appearance at Phoenix Hill Tavern on March 22 was the thirtieth show of his 31-date tour promoting his new Windham Hill album, Oracle.

Hedges is rich with eclectic oddities. If it's conventional, you won't find in his performance. Instead of the wooden stool or chair used by most guitarists, he employed a huge, red, inflated ball to accommodate his seating needs. And rather than the common microphone headset, he used a homemade copper helmet concoction with an attached wireless mic.

Not only did Hedges give completely dumbfounding performances of his original guitar and harp guitar pieces, he offered very impressive renditions of classic rock and roll favorites. In one instance, during Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone," the main PA failed. Hedges didn't miss a beat and immediately sang, "How does it feel - to be without any PA?" He then picked up his stage monitors and pointed them toward the audience. There was uproarious applause, of course.

His encore selection was a tasteful interpretation of the Stones' "Gimmie Shelter." He extended the song by jumping off the stage and running around the room, weaving through the crowd, all the while singing, "Love…it's just a kiss away." Again, the crowd went wild.

Hedges could have easily gotten a second encore, but he politely stated that his crew had a long trip ahead of them and asked the audience to graciously hold their applause.

Hedges gave a very passionate, personable performance that one rarely sees from a national artist. He even milled through the crowd during the intermission talking to people and visiting the bar for his favorite White Russian. It was clear that this "god" of the guitar is very comfortable with himself, his music, and his audience. It was a night that will be long remembered by those present.