There's a disconnect between what you see and what you hear at a Preston Reed gig. Shut your eyes and you might well imagine two or three guitarists trading licks on stage with a drummer backing them up. Open your eyes though and the sight that greets you is Reed all alone hunched over his guitar, his face concealed by his Gandalf style locks, as he frantically belts out enough notes and beats for a full band.
Reed's technique is frankly remarkable. He combines ordinary strumming with lightning quick tapping and percussive strokes to create a sound that has to be heard to be believed. Yet, while his playing creates the illusion of distinct parts, his songs are entirely indistinct. Over the course of this show songs with notional themes as disparate as the birth of a child and the rush of a Japanese bullet train merged into one.
The only songs that separated themselves were those in which Reed demonstrated a concerted change in technique, notably the astonishing 'Rainmaker', essentially an extended drum solo that Reed just happens to play on the guitar. 'Street Beat', a song from Reed's latest album that's heavily reminiscent of the airy grooves of Durutti Column, stood out too, as much for its restraint as anything else.
Alongside that newer song, Reed trotted out a number of tunes from the early 90s, including some from his classic album 'Metal' that he has retooled and is rerecording for release on his own label. Tellingly, Reed described having to relearn these tunes. To a degree that speaks to the complexity of Reed's playing style – you can't just pick these songs back up again in a night – but it also reveals something about Reed's attitude to his music. Reed is a technical genius whose skill and work ethic can't be questioned, but sadly actual songs seem somewhat secondary to him and his live performance hurts for it.