LIVE At The Mahafey Theater in St. Petersburg, Florida on 2/1/2017.
The music of Pat Metheny and his subsequent bands and collaboration projects has been a part of my musical experience for almost as long as I’ve been alive. Both of my parents have been listening to Pat since the start of his career in the mid 1970’s and have passed their admiration of his craft on to me. Despite the fact that I’ve collected his entire catalog which spans over an impressive 40+ year period, I had never actually seen him perform live in concert until earlier this year, when my father bought me tickets to Metheny’s concert in St. Petersburg, Florida for my 22nd birthday, and flew out from Denver to join me.
The concert was held at The Mahafey Theater as part of Metheny’s 2017 tour series titled An Evening With Pat Metheny (featuring Antonio Sanchez on drums/percussion, Gwilym Simcock on piano, and Linda Oh on bass).
Dad and I were seated in the second row near Antonio Sanchez’s drum set inside a nearly full house of 500 seats or so. The show started at roughly 8:05 PM when Metheny came out on center stage to perform a 7 minute solo piece that I later found out is called Come and See. I was slightly surprised to see that he swapped out his usual black and white stripped t-shirt for a gray t-shirt with multi-colored stripes, which was perhaps a nod to Florida’s bright and tropical landscape, or an overall decision to update his look. Either way, I found the decision to change shirts interesting, given the fact that he’s built a commercial image off of the Picasso influenced t-shirt for most of his career. As a solo guitarist, his playing style started off monophonic before seamlessly transitioning to a polyphonic style for the remainder of the 3-½ hour concert.
The remaining band members joined in at the tail end of Come and See. The transition from solo performance to a full quartet was so instantaneous once it occurred, one might believe that the band had been performing with Metheny from the very first note of the show.
The majority of the concert’s material encompassed Metheny’s earlier works from the 1970’s and 80’s, when he led The Pat Metheny Group alongside his long time friend and pianist Lyle Mays. When introducing the band at the first half hour mark of the show, Metheny humorously remarked that after 40 years, remembering each song’s title can be difficult, which is one reason why he prefers to think of his body of work as one continuous piece that he keeps expanding upon, which makes sense considering that his musical style is a mash up of all different subgenres under the bigger heading of Jazz.
As far as performance goes, each member surpassed my expectation with his or her ability to blend to Metheny’s overall style. While Gwilym Simcock is no Lyle Mays, his interpretation of piano heavy classics like Letter from Home and San Lorenzo, gave Mays the tribute he deserves, while simultaneously adding a fresh spin on two of my personal favorites. Antonio Sanchez has been with Metheny since 2002, and it became quite clear as to why he’s still the choice drummer for Pat Metheny after all these years. He has an ability to switch from a classical Jazz style to Hard Rock in an instant, which he demonstrated during a 15-minute drum solo. While I can appreciate Linda Oh’s ability to keep up with Metheny, I never felt that she added anything unique to the performance. With that being said, playing with a legend like Pat Metheny is a huge accomplishment within itself, and I’m looking forward to watching her career progress in the future.
For his own part, Pat Metheny seemed to be acting as a conductor of sorts with each strum and pluck imitating a cue given by an orchestra conductor that kept the other players on track.
In general, I’ve always been of the opinion that Metheny is right up there with Beethoven and Mozart in terms of comprehending and composing music.
I also believe that he is possibly the greatest musician ever to grace a guitar, and over 20 Grammy awards and three gold records are more than enough proof. Watching him perform on 5 different custom guitars throughout the evening was an awe-inspiring experience. My dad has seen him 30 times now (including this performance), and I have to give respect to Metheny for attracting so many repeat attendees after all these years.