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REVIEW: PAT METHENY – PALAIS THEATRE, MELBOURNE


Friday March 6, Palais Theatre

Review: Greg Phillips. Photos: Stuart McKay

Pat Metheny has enjoyed such a long and eclectic career, authenticated by the fact that he’s the only person in music history to win Grammys in 10 different categories. From his acclaimed solo albums and recordings with the Pat Metheny Group and Unity to his stunning work with Joni Mitchell and Jaco Pastorius on the Shadows and Light album, his compositions with the late great Lyle Mays including the fabulous soundtrack to The Falcon and The Snowman movie, Pat Metheny has never failed to deliver high quality, interesting material.

In concert, Metheny demands the focus be totally on the music. Upon entrance we’re warned that there would be a lockout for latecomers. No photographers were given access, phones turned off and the two and a half hour concert would have no break. If you’ve come to the concert, you’ve come to pay attention. However by definition, a Metheny audience is a discerning one and with such superior musicianship on offer tonight, the mesmerised crowd have his complete attention.

After strolling to the stage alone, Metheny sits centrestage with a single spotlight beaming down upon him and his 42 string Pikasso guitar as he delights us with a gorgeous instrumental piece, merging into So It Might Secretly Begin from 87’s Still Life (Talking) album.

Accompanying Metheny tonight are: 5 time Grammy winning musician and composer Antonio Sanchez on drums (he wrote the score to the 2014 movie Birdman), Perth-raised multi-instrumentalist Linda May Han Oh on bass and Gwilum Simcock (Professor of Jazz Piano at the Royal Academy of Music, London) on piano. Individually they are clearly virtuosos, together what they create is quite magical. They listen intently, taking chances and placing notes in the pockets as they appear, adding their unique voices to the collective, musical tapestry being woven on stage.

You can almost see the cogs turning in Metheny’s brain. Note ideas run through his head, a few almost but don’t quite make it to the fretboard or they do but aren’t plucked, as sometimes he decides that what the band is contributing far outweighs his own contemplations at the time. Above all else, it’s about what the music needs.

For most of the first hour, Pat favours his vintage Daniel Slaman ‘traveling sister’ hollow body guitar, an instrument inspired by the Charlie Christian guitar sound he’s always loved. The value of every note picked is considered, the final note of a song is as carefully chosen as the first and everything else in between. His guitar playing decisions are made in milliseconds, yet the consequences of his actions provide long-lasting memories for those in attendance. Lead lines suddenly end and strum patterns begin, adding drama and colour to the music.

Metheny only speaks once throughout the night and it’s brief … happy to be here, thanks for coming, we’re here for the music, let’s play some more. The set list stretches far and wide. Have You Heard from the Pat Metheny Group’s 1989 album Letter From Home is whimsical, Always and Forever from 1992’s Secret Story is lush and beautiful. Everything Explained gives us a taste of the new album From This Place.

Showcasing his band, Pat duets with each musician. Bass player Linda May Han Oh is a revelation. She’s totally at one with her instrument, flowing with it, finding notes with ease, adding incredible dynamics to the music. Pianist Gwilum Simcock oozes clarity and grace, with a sense of effortlessness in his impeccable playing. Metheny’s Roland GR300 guitar synth makes it’s mark on the show, conjuring distorted and supernatural orchestral sounds. His duet with drummer Antonio Sanchez is otherwordly.

A standing ovation, an encore and after almost two and a half hours Pat Metheny and band show that jazz can still be as vibrant and exciting an artform as ever.