Pulling the strings all evening long

YouTube star Andy McKee wows the audience at Amager Bio

Andy McKee was one of the first music acts to achieve stardom by posting their music online. Almost a decade ago, YouTube videos of McKee’s distinctive and unconventional guitar playing won him as many fans as his gorgeous compositions and multi-layered arrangements of popular songs.

Opening with the anthemic ‘Common Ground’ before jumping into ’80s reworkings, the crowd feed off the music’s complexity. McKee’s style demands intricate changes of tuning between each piece. These become small songs themselves, played as he talks to the audience and twists strings to fit. He’s a perceptive performer. “This is a new concept piece I’m trying out,” he says, tongue firmly in cheek.

Despite his skills, McKee doesn’t just let the music talk. Engaging stories about Prince calling – “From Minneapolis? The purple guy?” – segue into playing his heroes’ music on harp guitar: a great outlandish creation, hung from his neck and covered in strings.

“We’re going to take a break for 20 minutes so you guys can all go get another beer – I’ll be backstage retuning this thing.” As he finishes adjusting his strings and the audience stops laughing, quietening in anticipation, he steps closer to the mic. “No, seriously.”

McKee’s warm nature sits well with his playing. Where other live shows are brash and intense, perspiration pouring from musician and audience, McKee makes everything seem so easy. As he says, lots of the set sounds like three guitarists playing at once – yet McKee aces everything, eyes closed. It’s music to fall into.

As a guitarist myself, seeing him was a face-off between exhilarated excitement and feelings of complete musical inadequacy. For anyone else, Andy McKee live is a joy. When immense talent bubbles up to the surface, the least we can do is stop casting lines into the pool and listen.