With face muscles as tight as his guitar strings, the musical equivalent of ‘melody birthing pains,’ Pat Metheny granted a masterclass of melodic virtuosity at Belfast’s Waterfront last week in the penultimate concert of an 80-date tour.
Before a warm and appreciative audience, the Missouri-born musician, with no new album to promote, played many of his biggest hits from previous decades.
While this was Metheny’s first performance in Belfast, it probably won’t be his last considering the rapturous reception he and his three fellow musicians received, including two standing ovations.
Looking ever so casual in a loose-fitting sailor top and denims, the 63-year-old opened the evening with the slowly unfolding and wistful ‘Into the Dream’ on his impressive 42-string PIkasso guitar, before embarking on a crowd-pleasing evening mix of lingering acoustic ballads and fast-tempo stretch-outs that reflected 40 years of musical success – see details in previous article, ‘Jazz guitarist and Grammy winner Pat Metheny plays Belfast’s Waterfront next week’
Pianist Gwilym Simcock, Linda May Han Oh on double bass and drummer Antonio Sanchez provided excellent back-up throughout the 90-minute concert, as well as displaying their outstanding individual talents on ample solos. Simcock, for example, shone on the sweet, silky 1989 hit ‘Better Days Ahead’ while Sanchez shone alongside Metheny on the lively, nitty-gritty, ‘Lone Jack.’ Spontaneous applause welcomed ‘Unity Village’ from Meheny’s 1976 debut album ‘Bright Size Life,’ which also offered a fitting vehicle for Oh’s fine musical gifts.
Other featured melodies included ‘So It May Secretly Begin;’ the soothing ballad ‘Always and Forever’ from Metheny’s 2007 album ‘Secret Story’ and the funky-like psychedelic ‘The Red One’ from the 1994 album ‘I Can See Your House from Here’ that Metheny recorded with John Scofield.
For his first encore, strumming his Pikasso, Metheny blended together ‘Minuano (Six Eight)’ and ‘Last Train Home,’ both tracks from his 1987 album ‘Still Life (Talking)’ which won a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Fusion Performance, and ‘This is Not America.’
Reacting to extended applause after leaving the stage, the foursome returned with Metheny picking up his Roland guitar-synth for the catchy upbeat ‘Song For Bilbao,’ injected with powerful solo flourishes from Simcock, Sanchez and Oh, displaying her versatility by playing electric bass.