Michael Berk

Live Review | The Regent, Doncaster | Review by Allan Wilkinson

Bearing this in mind, I wasn’t entirely looking forward to tonight’s feast of guitar tunes with its notable absense of songs, courtesy of a young chap called Michael Berk. But from the moment he hit the first note to the very last a couple of hours later, I realised something extraordinary; that this man did in fact sing to me, but in the voice of his guitar. When introducing each piece of music, Michael referred to them as his songs, never tunes or compositions, just songs. The variety of different approaches he used during his two outstanding sets at the Monday Music Club at the Regent captured the imagination of those with just a passing interest in guitar music as well as the serious guitar students amongst the audience. Whilst his own ‘songs’ such as Satellite and The Return show a mature approach to composition, it is in his choice of covers that reveal a mastery of arrangement, whether it be with traditional Irish tunes of Turlough O’Carolan; “Si Beag Si Mhor” (cleverly disguised as “Bells”) and “Planxty Irwin”, or classical pieces; “Two Guitars” with it’s curious Woody Woodpecker theme, to modern classics such as Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” and Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry”. Each arrangement shows extraordinary musicianship and dexterity of playing. You have to wonder why he makes it so difficult for himself. But it is with Michael Berk’s reworking of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” that we truly witness a genius at work. It’s one of those rare moments where you have before you a young man on stage, who you don’t really know from Adam, but whose entire life you think you can trace by virtue of the fact that there’s only so many hours in a life, and most of them were spend learning this. It’s a Derren Brown moment; you know what he’s doing and with great predictability, you know what’s coming, but you have no idea how he does it. Every nuance, key change, fragment, harmonic progression administered in the original is encapsulated here on one single acoustic guitar, a Martin 00028 Eric Clapton signature (for anoraks), and Rock’s most embarrassingly extravagant moment is captured, and for once, sounds reasonably cool. Michael Berk probably deserves an ovation a) for patience b) for proving that anything’s possible.