Finally a Lopez with real talent

A busker at the corner of King and Princess. The annual Kingston Buskers Rendezvous ran from July 12-15.
A busker at the corner of King and Princess. The annual Kingston Buskers Rendezvous ran from July 12-15.

“I feel like a classical guitarist,” Canadian guitar-virtuoso Oscar Lopez told his Kingston audience during his opening numbers at the Grand Theatre on July 9. Alone on the stage with six strings, two hands and one pick, the Juno-nominated instrumentalist filled the theatre with wall-to-wall acoustic sound.

Lopez is good with his hands. After starting the night with a few solo numbers, the musician blazed through highly energetic sets accompanied by a fellow guitarist (the original billing was for a trio but, as Lopez explained, the third amigo was “stuck in traffic”). Lopez’s tireless strumming and keen instinct for improvisation explain why he likened himself to a “classical” musician. Like Bach’s whirlwind fugues, Lopez is a perpetual motion machine. His forte is heart-quickening numbers that overlap plucked Latin melodies with rhythmic chords. In one song he resorted to using the guitar’s body, slapping it until it faded to a barely audible patter, as though imitating a team of horses galloping into the distance. Lopez originally hails from Chile but has called Canada his home since 1979. He talked about the transition from his hometown of Calgary. “Here in Canada, I have the opportunity to make music full-time, which is something I couldn’t do in Chile,” he said.

“The Canadian music scene is supportive, no question about it.”

Lopez is known for fusing elements of rock and jazz into his music, but his Kingston performance stayed true to his roots in a warmer climate. “That’s who I am. That’s my signature,” he said about his Latin musical flavour.

On stage, Lopez, like his heavy Spanish accent, is all charm.

“I’d like to thank all the people behind the scenes,” he said. “I’ve forgotten their names, so I’ll call them Jose, Jose, Jose.”

He also didn’t hesitate to take a shot at Kingston demographics. After deploring many of his fans’ mispronunciation of “flamenco” as “flamingo,” he dedicated his next number “to all the white people in the audience.” The ‘mostly-white’ audience applauded in good humour.

Indeed, the audience kept applauding, until Lopez and his partner re-entered the stage to play an encore, a number that included his good-spirited yelps and yowls.

At the end of the two-hour performance he revealed how he keeps his hands in shape.

“Now I have to go and put my fingers in tequila,” he said.

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