As a 30-something Phish and jam band fan, it’s easy to feel you know the ins and outs of the the most highly respected musicians in the scene – arrogance and intelligence are in a constant state of competition. However, an expansion of your delicate horizons can both impress and humble you. Such is the case of my first time seeing Pat Metheny.
This 20-time Grammy Award winning guitar welcomed a sold out crowd of mostly Baby Boomers to The Egg in Albany on January 18. Accompanied by his pick of world-class musicians: Linda Oh on bass, pianist Gwilym Simcock and drummer Antonio Sanchez.
Entering The Egg on a solo mission, with no entourage as I’m accustomed to, I felt alone, but soon quickly extinguished said feeling. As the show began, I quickly took on the student role, ready to learn what this devout musician could instruct me. An instrument like I’ve never seen: two guitar necks, one to the mandolin, one to the guitar, add on a set of harp stings to the belly; it created a full ensemble of sound, reminisce to ancient Japan. A geisha could surely appear on stage, with grace, mystery and peace.
Throughout the evening, I witnessed Metheny, a man with a clearly elevated intelligence and sense of creativity, work with his chosen colleagues to create an eye-awakening performance of both classical and truly improvisational jazz rock. Rotating through five different guitars, he birthed a new sound and song by song ambiance. A guitar that could be mistaken for a wind instrument and then to something with a screeching, yet eerie sound – my eyes and ears were openly anticipating the next unique and unfamiliar sound.
Oh controls the bass in such a way that I can only describe as both forceful and graceful – a contradiction of elegance and pure physical power. Simcock is a break-out pianist – technical and at times playful. He nearly steals the show from Metheny at times. As a novice, the wheels are turning. I want to see him everywhere. His back facing the crowd, I only wish I could see his face to see the man behind the art.
The rest join him in a whirlwind of improv. It sounds like a dinner party, with five of the most interesting conversations happening at once. Yet, every one weaves into the other creating a blur of sound, a peaceful yet chaotic soundtrack to a solo mission.
Standing in the back of The Egg at maximum capacity and without a chair to sit in or a friend to lean on, I take the ride through the ages. For me, it’s a learning opportunity. For others it’s nostalgia. But for everyone in that room, it’s a exhibition of the raw talent of the legendary Pat Metheny.