Two Arthurs, Two Strings & Two Guitar PlayersWednesday, October 04, 2006
On August 11, 1984 Art Bergmann and his band Poisoned were the warm-up act for the Psychedelic Furs at the Orpheum. No band from Vancouver's alternative rock scene had ever before been invited to perform at the Orpheum.
In 1952, as a boy, at Buenos Aires' grand opera house, the Teatro Colón, I saw another Art play, amidst a chorus of winter coughs and sneezes. Pianist Artur Rubenstein got up, turned to the crowd, pen in hand like a baton, and shouted, "All together, one, two, three cough, cough." He sat down and began to play. He played terribly. It dawned on all that Rubinstein was drunk. He was instantly showered with coins, the Porteño sign of disapproval. He left, and we waited patiently for an hour, when he returned to play Beethoven with consumate virtuosity and passion. Even I knew the night was special.
Art once sat down at my Chickering baby grand and played some amazing Bach. While the Orpheum is not the Colón and Bergmann is no pianist ( he is a virtuoso of the electric guitar), any performance of Bergmann I ever attended always held the promise for the kind of passion (and the kind of risk) I experienced back at the Colón in 1952.
At the Orpheum show (left), I was not disappointed. On a good night (by my measure), Art breaks a guitar string. On this one he broke two. And there was that additional guitarist. He was six feet tall; wore a Mohawk and knee-high lace-ups. His image of an undead was at odds with the map of Italy painted on the face of his guitar. None of us knew then that Ted Rich was Eric Clapton's half brother.