Welcome to Breakdown, an unofficial resource and discussion list about the innovative guitarist/producer Michael Brook. This site is infrequently updated, but contains a great deal of background info which will remain online. For up-to-date news and information, visit Michael Brook's official site and MySpace page.

Live tour dates and concert reviews

House of Blues
Cambridge, Massachusetts
8 August 1999
by Peter Shindler

Now as I've had a few days to reflect, here are some observations on MB and DG's performance at the House of Blues in Cambridge, Mass., this past Sunday 8/8.

It was terrific. The crowd was small but intense, and I learned that the House of Blues is a much better place when it's not too full. The audients were really into it; Brook introduced a few pieces from Cobalt Blue and one from Albino Alligator, and they were all met with cheers of familiarity. I got the impression that there were a number of Armenians in the audience too, and they went wild for everything Djivan G did (a response shared by most of the listeners). Surprisingly for a Boston (or American) audience, the assembled crowd really did shut up and listen, giving the quiet moments the serenity and gravity they deserved. There were several wonderful moments of complete silence after some of the quieter pieces before everyone started applauding.

The music... incredible. I don't have Black Rock (but will certainly be picking it up this week) so this was my first exposure to the new music, and I was seriously impressed. Brook's gift for combining cutting-edge technology with ethnic musical ideas and instruments has reached new heights. They played what must have been the entire Black Rock album, the Albino Alligator tune, a country-flavored "Breakdown" (wild "yee-haw"'s coming from the crowd, seconded by Brook afterward; Brook droning while Djivan played a new counter-melody), and "Ultramarine" (which Brook performed mainly solo, entertaining us with a David Byrnesque dance while he whacked the hell out of his guitar).

Gasparyan practically stole the show with his playing and singing, wearing a terrific smile most of the time. Richard Evans added lots of color on flute and occasional 2nd guitar, while also playing lots of bass and controlling much of the sampled droning, bleeping, and whirring through a small synthesizer. Jason Lewis was a competent drummer, providing subtle cymbal backing for Djivan on many of the more "ethnic" sounding pieces, but with all the prerecorded loops and drum samples, he really didn't have much to do at times.

The response was such that we were favored with a hasty encore. Brook told us that they appreciated the enthusiasm, but that they'd already played everything that they had rehearsed. They ended up playing "Mush Mush" (one of three or four names Brook gave it) for a second time, but it went in a different direction and climaxed with a wild Brook infinite guitar solo. A solo duduk piece finished things off.

Observations... Many of the technical / communication problems that others mentioned at earlier shows seem to have been ironed out... Brook's stage persona was much different than I expected; he was friendly, funny, and completely self-deprecating. I was expecting him to be dark and reserved for some reason... Djivan G seemed to be using his duduk, sans effects, to produce more tone colors than MB and R. Evans could with all their modern electronic equipment.

The only problem I had was that maybe there were just too many slow, quiet pieces in the middle of the show, and I could tell that some of the audience members were losing interest. Fortunately they began and ended on high-energy settings. Also, considering the relatively small repertoire they've got to play, it would be interesting to see them throw in some improvised sections to vary things up.

If they're coming to your locale, don't miss them. Artists like this don't come around much.