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Julian Lage Concert Review: Lage Is a Guitar God

Lage performing at Club Passim in 2010.
Lage performing at Club Passim in 2010. By Courtesy of Thom C from Wikimedia Commons
By Lena M. Tinker, Crimson Staff Writer

Julian Lage, a self-proclaimed guitar nerd, can only be described as genius. A child prodigy who was the subject of an Oscar-nominated documentary at age eight, Lage is one of those rare individuals who exhibits a complete union of human and instrument. His guitar appears to be an extension of his body, and in sync the two undergo a sonic exploration that is awesome to witness.

The energy of the Julian Lage Trio, which includes bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Dave King, perfectly meshed with the hip wood-paneled walls of the Berklee Performance Center. The stage, surrounded in dark curtains, was reminiscent of a black-box theater — intimate yet simple enough that the trio stood out, spotlighted by smoothly shifting colors.

Sitting in the darkened hall, glazed in blue and orange lighting, one felt they were in the presence of one of the greats as Lage’s fingers flew across the fretboard of his custom Collings butter yellow guitar. The bowed heads of the other two members assured you that you were indeed witnessing the divine. To listen to the Julian Lage Trio live is a holy experience.

The set list included songs from a smattering of albums, including Lage’s 2021 release, “Squint,” and older albums like “Arclight” (2016) and “World’s Fair” (2015). “Squint” featured prominently, with songs performed including “Boo’s Blues,” “Saint Rose,” and “Quiet Like A Fuse.”

Lage recorded “Squint” during the pandemic. It was his debut album for the iconic Blue Note Records, a label which has produced the likes of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, and Art Blakey.

Covid-19 delayed recording in the studio until August of 2020. During the delay, Lage’s album conception shifted from creating purely positive music into something that was more conversational, emotionally complex, and emblematic of the time he was living through — according to his website.

The live performance of the album, combined with the other older songs, produced moments of joy and intensity. The emotion and energy were furthered by Lage’s stage presence, making it hard to divorce Lage’s music from the visual performance of this show.

Lage did not stop moving: strutting flamingo-like across the stage during a particularly involved piece, oscillating between 45 and 90 degrees with a bend at the hip, bouncing up and down in childlike giddiness with a wide smile on his face as his guitar merged with the bedrock of rhythm and depth created by Roeder and King.

The trio shared a visible rapport as they played, so controlled yet at the same time liberated, through their careful intertwining of instruments. The three were constantly and perfectly in sync. The genuine love and respect they had for one another was evident in the almost intimate gazes shared by the musicians while on the stage.

When discussing what it felt like to jam with others as a guest on D’Addario and Co.’s show Guitar Power, Lage said, “I’m not guessing if it sounds good. If my foot’s tapping and theirs is too, and I feel kind of swept up in it all, it’s probably going okay.”

There certainly was foot tapping and head bobbing during Lage’s concert. The musicians occasionally punctuated their songs with laughter, and the energy shared between the three of them echoed into the audience. From time to time, a laugh, a sigh, or a free-formed “yeah!” broke the reverent silence.

Lage’s closing song, “Quiet Like A Fuse” from his most recent album “Squint,” was perhaps one of the best pieces of the night. The three musicians harmoniously clashed, high notes reeled into fresh air, and came together in a perfect moment before Lage took a solo. King had his head bent in prayer; Roeder stared towards the ceiling in a moment of transcendence as Lage carried the song.

Packing in musical influences, the piece toyed with blues and rock n’ roll, grounded by meaningful silence. The trio came together in one final moment, before the resonant notes of Lage’s guitar were left echoing into the hall.

And then, like it began, in an abrupt movement the musicians stepped away from their instruments, King threw a peace sign, Lage blew a kiss to the crowd, and they disappeared.

They reappeared for one last song, and after tumultuous applause, the crowd sat back down to be captivated one final time.

—Staff writer Lena Tinker can be reached at

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