[JPL] Gil Scott-Heron's triple header in Metro Denver

Arturo Gomez arturogomez at kuvo.org
Mon May 4 19:37:17 EDT 2009

Having seen Gil with Brian Jackson and the Midnight Band in the 1970s and
with the Amnesia Express in the early 1980s I didn't expect much from Gil
over the weekend due to his health issues and substance abuse problems, I
didn't want to set the bar high and then be disappointed.  That said,  he
was better than I anticipated despite he being  past his prime. It is like
watching Shaq play for the Suns, moments of brilliance in the shadow of
declining skills.  Twice we had commitments from his road manager for in
studio appearances, Friday's was cancelled due to Gil's problem with
clearance from Homeland Security attempting to board his flight, it took him
15 hours to get  from NYC to Denver.  We were told this was his first flight
since 9-11 as all his gigs since then have been on the Eastern Seaboard and
via Gil's preferred method of travel, a tour bus-Hello Sunday, Hello Road.
No problem, Gil requires a lot of rest and can not have marathon days
without paying a price.  We set up a second interview time without
performance obligations on Saturday at 3:30,  he was still sleeping at that
time so we decided to pass on accepting the road manager's offer to have him
here Sunday afternoon


I did have opportunities on both Friday and Saturday nights to chat with Gil
in between sets and he was very friendly and lucid, he was very open with me
because he told me he could sense my sincerity and didn't ask him the same
stupid questions he gets all the time by those who don't know him. I got his
home number and he told me to call him in a week or so when he is back home
to chat some more on the phone. He is particularly proud of his father's
accomplishments and when I mentioned his dad and his Jamaican heritage he
lit up, when I told him I was Cuban he became even more engaged and that's
when he told me to call him at his house.  In our 2 short encounters I
discovered several things and verified others including that it IS his
daughter on the cover of the Real Eyes LP and that it is his best friend's
black cat on the cover of Secrets


Gil was accompanied by his long time Amnesia Express players. Ed
Brady-guitar, Robert Gordon-bass, Kenny Powell-drums and Ethan Ivy on
percussion. Gil confessed to the audiences that he doesn't remember all of
his song's lyrics nor their chords so he wasn't able to fulfill all the
requests being yelled out, but for the ones he performed he still has decent
chops on his Fender piano and his voice was clear yet limited in range, he
can no longer hit the higher ends but his baritone is still as smoky as
ever. He made many commentaries and appeared genuinely appreciative of the
audience coming out to see him, he even talked about his many Denver
appearances over the years calling out by name some of his pals from way
back when


I will share one comment he made to me when I asked him if he has any
regrets not having followed the more commercial route and become just
another RnB, funk or blues musician and made more money,  have had less
hardships and no persecution. Immediately he said no, that's not my
character, I couldn't look myself in the mirror. The opening acts on both
Friday and Saturday nights including some positive hip hop acts, he told
them back stage to make sure they listen to his Message to the Messengers
where he encourages rappers to learn music in order to be musicians and not
just spoken word artists, now, that's what I'm talking about.  I have always
thought Message to the Messengers was exactly on point



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