Review by Sunni Clyburn
Pat Metheny is one of those timeless innovative musicians, who put his stamp on history and the way we perceive and appreciate music. Along with the Pat Metheny Group, he has been a household name in the Jazz scene for over forty years and just like MF Doom is “your favourite rapper’s favourite rapper”, it’s likely that Pat Metheny is a muse of every jazz musician. The legendary guitarist has only performed a handful of times in Australia over the course of his career, therefore his 2020 tour down under was no doubt a long anticipated event.
The performance began with Metheny alone in the spotlight with his Pikasso guitar – a multi-necked, experimental instrument custom made for him by luthier Linda Manzer. His acoustic piece sounded like an entire ensemble, as his nimble fingers danced lightly over all 42 strings; a tantalising treat that promised musical wonders to come. It was melancholic and dreamlike and the whole audience sat in contemplative silence as if to not miss a single note played.
Excitement rushed through The Astor Theatre with the entrance of the band: Perth’s own Linda May Han Oh (double bass), Antonio Sanchez (drums) and Gwilym Simcock (piano). This electricity remained present throughout the night. The performance of the Pat Metheny Group is an example of how instrumental music is just as entertaining and moving to watch as it is to listen to. Witnessing musicians of this calibre lose themselves in their instruments was an awe-inspiring experience. The entire ensemble played so effortlessly and with so much enjoyment, one could probably forget how much time, effort and practice went into mastering their sound.
The ensemble played mostly older material, including tunes from albums “Pat Metheny Group” and “Offramp”. Metheny also pulled out the synth guitar for “The Red One” to deliver the signature sound he is known for. He teamed up with the double bass for a wholesome and soothing rendition of “Question and Answer”. Oh’s timing was on point and gentle, her intonation clean and the strength and grace with which she handled her instrument was truly remarkable. Equally impressive duets followed with the rest of the Pat Metheny Group. Simcock kept the crowd hypnotised with his swift key strokes and Sanchez blew everyone’s minds with his fierce and precise drum solos. Every duet highlighted the magic that each musician individually brought to the stage.
Metheny didn’t speak much throughout the performance; he simply nodded with a seemingly shy, but genuine smile that said: “I’m glad you enjoy my music.” Not that verbal communication was necessary – it was all about the music.
“One of my daydreams is to move to Perth,” he confessed. “You’re lucky to live here. I hope you know that.”
We would certainly feel luckier, if the likes of Pat Metheny Group came to visit us more often. In the meantime we’ll have to savour the enchanting musical nights that leave us longing for more.