If someone put strings on a pizza oven, David Lindley would find a way to make music with it.
Alas, none of the staff at Natalie’s Coal Fired Pizza in Worthington, Ohio wanted to try that experiment, leaving Lindley with a bouzouki, an oud, a lapful of Weissenborn guitars and a container full of fingerpicks and slides with which to play.
And play he did.
Lindley switched instruments before each of the dozen or so songs he performed in his 100-minute set. He gazed lovingly at each one and spent a minute or two before each performance getting reacquainted with the implement du song, playing riffs that weren’t quite tunings and not quite jams as his fingers got accustomed to the strings, neck and tone of the moment.
A master of all things stringed, Lindley is perhaps best known as the long-time guitarist for Jackson Browne; his is the impish voice heard on Browne’s version of “Stay.” While that voice has deepened over the decades, Lindley is still an enigmatic and unlikely vocalist.
As a solo act, which he’s been for some 30 years now, Lindley excels in interpreting others’ work and making songs by Warren Zevon and Danny O’Keefe (“More than Eva Braun,” “Well, Well, Well”) sound instantly compatible with his own whacked-out songwriting, which popped up in numbers from his forthcoming CD-in-the-making and in the form of “The Cuckoo” and “Tuna Fish Blues,” tucked brilliantly into a cover of “Mercury Blues.”
Seated and sporting an asymmetrically patterned shirt and a pylon-orange ski cap, Lindley spent the show – from his opening run through Zevon’s “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me” to his closing take on his own “Tiki Torches at Twilight” – playing and spending lengthy stretches telling stories about Zevon and Browne; his instruments and the man who made them; and his late buddy, an archer-cum-Zen master who’d spout profundities whilst aiming at a grapefruit-sized target in the distance.
The stories were often gut-busting, particularly when Lindley – who could give Rich Little and Dana Carvey a run for their money – began channeling Jimmy Stewart and concocting a profanity-laced account about being the drummer in a power-trio with a guitar-shredding Henry Fonda and a bass-playing Katherine Hepburn.
To some degree it was unfortunate that the tales took up nearly half of Lindley’s stage time, robbing the audience of the chance to see and hear more of his astounding style of play.
Still, when a show ends unconventionally with the audience singing: “Tiki torches at twilight/hula girls at the bar/all the guys from the office/are throwing up in their cars,” you know you’re experiencing something different.
And when a show ends unconventionally with such a sing-along while the star ad libs about puking up corn and tomato skins while voicing a drunken dude slurring “I love you, man” and his sober(er) friend imploring him to at least barf out the car window, you know you’re experiencing something really different.
Lindley is that something.