Play it again, Barry: Davos 'Piano Man' gets new gig

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - For 25 years he had the ear of world leaders, CEOs and even rock stars at Davos, but the Swiss ski resort’s most-listened to man has moved on.

FILE PHOTO: Barry Colson plays piano at his new bar in Davos, Switzerland January 20, 2020. Picture taken January 20, 2020. REUTERS/Jenna Zucker

Barry Colson, a 56-year-old piano player who lives in Halifax, Canada, led a nightly songfest for World Economic Forum attendees as the musician-in-residence at the upstairs bar of the Hotel Europe.

Now, his gig is up. Colson said his contract was not renewed for 2020. The owner of the Hotel Europe, which is on the town’s main promenade, did not respond to several requests by Reuters for comment.

Instead, Colson has opened up his own shop about 450 meters from the Hotel Europe. Would-be warblers are greeted with a “Barry’s Piano Bar” neon sign at a club sponsored by U.S. internet security company Cloudflare.

Back up the road, UK-based musician Ian Hooper is playing the Hotel Europe this month and in March, his website says.

Colson says Bono, Peter Gabriel, Hollywood producer James Cameron and Google founder Eric Schmidt are just some of the high-profile Davos attendees who have turned up to hear him belt out songs over the years, some joining him in a tune.

His set regularly features Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” and Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ‘69”.

Cloudflare co-founder Matthew Prince, who met his wife Tatiana in 2015 during a Barry gig at the Hotel Europe, said he offered to find and fund the new Davos location, settling the deal on a handshake.

“Davos is very structured. It’s rigid in its form and designed not to embarrass or offend anyone, ever,” Prince said.

“There’s almost nothing more embarrassing than standing up with a microphone, trying to sing. And it turns out the skill to be the CEO or crown prince doesn’t translate so well to lounge singer,” he added.

The new piano lounge, designed by Brand Fuel, looks more like a New York club than an Alpine bar. It features plush sofas, dark lighting and funky chandeliers.

Cloudflare is hoping to host Colson again at the same place in Davos next year, a spokeswoman said.

Colson sticks to a tight list of songs from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. “My repertoire changed only a little bit because people don’t want to change,” Colson said. “I tried learning new songs. It really didn’t work.”

The most requested song, he said, is Billy Joel’s “Piano Man,” a tune Colson said he turns off when he hears it on the radio.

Davos fixture Ian Bremmer, founder of the Eurasia Group consulting firm, said Colson has infectious energy and is a pro at understanding what a room wants to hear.

“Barry may be the one thing everyone attending Davos can agree on,” Bremmer said.

Additional reporting by Jenna Zucker and Kathryn Lurie; Editing by Leela de Kretser and Alexander Smith