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Home arrow Reviews arrow Concerts arrow Guy Pratt is the Sideman: The Slipper Room, New York City, April 13, 2016
Guy Pratt is the Sideman: The Slipper Room, New York City, April 13, 2016 Print E-mail
Written by Ed Lopez-Reyes   
Friday, 22 April 2016

Guy Pratt - The Slipper Room, April 2016This month, New York City's The Slipper Room was fortunate to host a one-off Guy Pratt stand-up show following his sold out live concert performances with David Gilmour at Radio City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden; it was a rare opportunity for an intimate American audience to experience a side of Pratt's artistic work that has gained traction throughout the rest of the world: his delivery as a stand-up comedian...

New York City's Empire State Building often celebrates special occasions such as holidays, important sporting events, and other outstanding milestones by lighting its tower in relevant colours. By all measures, Manhattan was basking in some hue of pink during the early part of April: saturated for nearly an entire week by events with a Pink Floyd connection, Gotham kicked off this significant run on Friday the 8th with an incredible performance by Brit Floyd at the Beacon Theatre, followed by a sold out presentation of Damian Barr's Literary Salon with Polly Samson, Jonathan Lee, and David Gilmour at the Ace Hotel, leading to three sold-out David Gilmour shows at Radio City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden, and finally capped by an intimate and exceptionally well-attended Guy Pratt stand-up event at The Slipper Room. There was ample reason for the Empire State Building Tower Lights to radiate in pink or at the very least tether an inflatable pig from its highest point: although the New York skyline did not feature such a climactic event the city was buzzing in a palpable Pink Floyd mood right up to Pratt's final act – The Slipper Room was certainly basking in an intense glow of its own during Pratt's one-off show, a rare opportunity for American audiences to see Pratt in a different light.

Following the three back-to-back performances at Radio City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden, Pratt brought his stand-up routine, full of anecdotes, stories, and a few bass and guitar notes to an elite audience in New York City. The audience included the likes of Jon Carin and other well-known artists and felt both like a celebration of the days immediately preceding the event and of the overall experiences (spanning an unbelievable 34 years for someone that is only in his early 50s) that have given Pratt the stature he has achieved among Pink Floyd enthusiasts and beyond.

Pratt's narrative is peppered with an organic, innate, and powerful British sense of humour (anyone who has read about Pratt over the years or has seen him in documentaries will be familiar with this aspect of his personality). His stand-up routine includes some improvisation, depending on Pratt's interaction with the audience. The common thread in all of his stand-up shows is a set of histories no other comedian could ever replicate: his time playing with some of the most iconic musicians of our time (including Madonna, Michael Jackson, David Coverdale, Jimmy Page, and Robert Palmer, among others) and his career as a studio and touring member of Pink Floyd, allow him to draw from a pool of life experiences that rarely frames comedic discourse on a stage.

Pratt put one foot into the world of comedy in 2005, when he first presented a stand-up show titled My Bass and Other Animals at the Edinburgh Festival – this was the genesis of auto-biographical material that eventually led to the 2007 book of the same name, followed by a number of stand-up tours in the United Kingdom and abroad under that moniker. Since then, the show has taken a different shape, with the latest iteration, 2013's Guy Pratt is the Sideman, leading to a series of new performances but still leaving a void in the United States. This absence is puzzling for a number of reasons, including the appeal in American entertainment culture and audiences for cross-pollination: Pratt's parlaying such a rich musical history into a comedy narrative is a natural fit for American audiences who become invested in the personality first.

Pratt kicked off the evening at The Slipper Room with some commentary on a political exchange he had been roped into on Twitter over the course of the preceding 24 hours: following a tweet from Donald Trump's son celebrating Gilmour's Radio City Music Hall performance (and posting a picture of Pratt on stage), Pratt made his opinion about the presidential candidate clear. Naturally, this upset a number of Pink Floyd, Gilmour, and Pratt fans who support Trump's candidacy. But Pratt has never shied away from expressing strong political views. It is understandable why some fans were disappointed in the exchange; neither side could ever delve into a discussion of the complicated political environment that has nurtured the presidential candidate's rise: having much less to do with any specific political party, it is a complicated narrative that will never be afforded the type of analysis and dialog it merits over social media – a case of limited bandwidth that is only accentuated by Twitter's truncated nature and that all fans hope musicians can transcend anyway.

Guy Pratt - The Slipper Room, April 2016Pratt moved on quickly, however, and delved into stories of his time playing not just for Pink Floyd but for some of the other aforementioned artists.

It is easy to understand how Pratt ended up playing with such great icons. He is uniquely talented: watching him underscore his tales with snippets of bass-playing illustrates how even the simplest bass lines can carry such a powerful punch in the right hands… but there is also something about Pratt's personality that makes him relatable across music industry strata: powerful musicians and fans alike find him accessible and although Pratt makes it clear he is as star-struck as many fans. It is also clear that his personality is one of unrestrained curiosity regardless of his surrounding environment. This unleashes behaviours that compel others to follow his lead – no matter their stature – and to keep things grounded. This is the deepest well for his material: his ability to humanize even the biggest of stars and to draw them into his antics.

At times, during his stand-up routine, it was difficult to discern which of his personal moods greets fans most consistently. While relating a story from one of his Pink Floyd tours it was a bit difficult to read whether there was some small degree of schadenfreude or just innocuous good humour in the pleasure he derived from one of the band's floating pigs being weighed down by water and being relieved of it much like a real pig would: only as it floated over an audience.

Apparently, a production mishap caused this water accumulation: in order to include the pig in the production and launch it successfully it needed to be relieved of water weight, mid-flight. The floating piece was pierced in a rather strategic spot: a small incision around the inflatable animal's crotch area – not with any nefarious intent, but rather because this was, apparently, where it made the most sense, technically. The pig hovered over the audience for some time, releasing a stream of water over those directly below it. When visualized, it is difficult not to see the humour in it. Pratt's ability to make you feel as you would in his shoes is part of his act's gift and it was hard to resist laughing at this mishap and its casualties no matter how masochistic – given where most in this audience would have sat at the time of the event he was describing.

You get the sense during Pratt's stand-up show that he relates to his stand-up audience differently. It manages to draw people who have become particularly interested and keen on the individuals that formed the longest-standing version of Pink Floyd and who take a more surgical interest in them. In a sense, this might humanize the artist-audience experience for Pratt in a different way. And this is one reason some of the smallest parts of the show are the most memorable.

Guy Pratt - The Slipper Room, April 2016In addition to the great stories and the great humour, anyone familiar with Pink Floyd and with Pratt's role in the band will hear him play that classic bass guitar intro to One of These Days during his routine in a different way. Those few seconds are a reminder of the scale in which we normally hear those very same notes: projected from a gigantic stage, through quadraphonic sound, for audiences of stadium-sized capacity and numbering the 80-thousands. In some circular way, Pratt's stand-up routine is a reminder that every musician has to be a fan and that we all share a similar perspective no matter what side of the stage we inhabit.

The excitement, reception, and success of The Slipper Room event should encourage future stand-up performances – and maybe even an American release of My Bass and Other Animals (with a substantive update: it's been nearly 10 years and a few more things under his belt).

The event at The Slipper Room was a great way to close a number of back-to-back events that inhabit the same artistic universe. Closing this series of events with a good laugh and with a much more human connection made the experience for those who partook of it more epic and to some extent a bit nostalgic, considering not just how rare an event it was but also how long it had been since Pratt and his boss had played a few tunes in North America. And that is one of the great things about New York City: out of the hundreds of places where Pratt could have performed, The Slipper Room took the prize and the memories this time – and who knows for how long it will be the "last place". Hopefully, this is the beginning of a much stronger presence for Pratt this side of the globe.

For more information about Guy Pratt, please visit GuyPratt.com or join the conversation on Twitter: @guypratt.

 
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