PAT METHENY GROUP -- State Theater New Brunswick, NJ 11/25/97

metheny2As I walked into the State Theater and heard the sounds of Miles Davis' classic album, In a Silent Way, I knew this was going to be a good night. Though I've been a fan for several years, this was my first time experiencing the group in concert. Metheny and his band captivated the audience for a full two and a half hours. The stage was made to look like a desolate railroad crossing, complete with a flashing train signal. Telephone poles on either side of the stage helped give the impression of being out on the open road; a scene often found in the group's cover art.

The sold out show began with "Into the Dream," from the group's latest album, Imaginary Day. This solo track featured Metheny on the 42-string pikasso guitar, a strange looking instrument with seven sets of strings. Why 42 strings? Metheny laughed, "that increases the odds by seven that I'll play a right note." As the song built to its crescendo, the rest of the band joined him onstage and launched into the fast C minor blues, "Have You Heard." Used by the band to 'loosen up,' this tune has become a Metheny standard.

One of the best new tracks on Imaginary Day is "Follow Me." The song's infectious hook may a bit too close to "pop" music for the purists out there; but judging from the crowd's response tonight, this song is sure to become a Metheny classic. Next was a cover of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "How Insensitive." Starting as a trio, the piece built slowly, and featured an outstanding acoustic bass solo from Steve Rodby. Rodby is one of those rare bassists who are at home on both the acoustic and the electric basses. The first real crowd pleaser of the night was "First Circle." From the initial handclaps, to the song's climactic ending, the audience loved every note, giving the band a standing ovation when it was finished.


"Imaginary Day" began the second set with a fury. Featuring Metheny on the fretless classical guitar; this was one of the best songs of the night. Keyboard virtuoso and Metheny's longtime collaborator, Lyle Mays, got to show off his trippy effects on this one. As impressive as he was up to this point, his playing ability would shine through on the next piece, "The Heat of the Day." Watching Mays play is literally a show in itself. The emotion that he pours into his performance is amazing.

For "The Roots of Coincidence," all gloves were off. For the fans that hadn't heard the new material yet, they were in for a big surprise. Metheny, smashing out power chords like a rock guitar god. Even Mays strapped on a guitar for this one. It was great to see the looks on the faces of people who weren't expecting it. Drummer Paul Wertico and new percussionist, Jeff Haynes were the featured soloists on "Third Wind," which also included another masterful solo from Metheny.

His best solo of the evening came on the classic, "Are You Going With Me." After the songs ended, a lone voice in the unusually quiet New Jersey crowd summed it up best, "Excellent!" Metheny took care of his acoustic fans too, with a heartfelt rendition of "Message to a Friend," and the stunning duet with Mays, "September Fifteenth." After an intro-less "Minuado," and the blindingly fast "Stranger in Town," the group was on their way.

It was clear that Metheny really enjoyed playing this show. He told the State Theater crowd, "this is a gig we always really look forward to," and you could tell he was sincere. He also gave the crowd a little insight into the group's challenging new material. "We really did try to go into a few different areas for us than we've been before," said Metheny. "It's been another challenge again to figure out how to play a lot of this stuff live." After only a month on the road, it's safe to say that they figured it out--and then some.

© 1997 Steve Marshall
Photographs by Lauren Marshall