The Pageant
St. Louis, MO
March 9, 2002

Pat MethenyIf there's one thing you can say about Pat Metheny, it's that he's versatile. From one recording to the next, you never know what to expect. One album may be acoustic, the next may be something in the avant-garde free jazz genre, the next may be a trio record, etc. The closest thing to consistency in the Metheny section of your local CD shop is the long line of Pat Metheny Group releases. During the sold out, almost three hour show at The Pageant, the crowd got a little taste of everything--a healthy helping of material from the group's new CD, Speaking of Now, plus a few choice tunes that hadn't been played in almost 15 years.

Dressed in his trademark striped shirt & black jeans, Metheny walked onto the fully lit stage with an acoustic guitar for a stripped down solo version of "Last Train Home." After that, new PMG drummer, Antonio Sanchez joined Metheny onstage for "(Go) Get It," from the Trio 99>00 album. The rest of the band emerged for the classic "Phase Dance," giving the audience its first glimpse of what to expect from this new version of the PMG. Although they stayed fairly true to the original, the song was performed with renewed freshness and energy.

"Proof" was the first of four new songs played before the break. A sprawling soundscape, the song was full of shifting tempos and intricate soloing by Metheny's longtime collaborator and the group's primary keyboardist, Lyle Mays. Cuong Vu, another new PMG member, added an alluring touch to the song with his trumpet work and effects. For "The Gathering Sky," Sanchez had his first moment in the spotlight with a spectacular solo. "First Circle" was the next big crowd pleaser, and garnered the band its first standing ovation.

PAT METHENY GROUP: Speaking of Now (Warner Brothers)After introducing the members of the group, Metheny & company launched into a particularly trippy variation of "Offramp," featuring Vu on trumpet and effects. Each member of the group got a chance to be in the spotlight, and this was Vu's. "On Her Way" almost found new member, Richard Bona stealing the show with his vocal and musical ability and obvious sense of humor. Right after that, they brought out the 42-string Pikasso guitar for an updated version of Into the Dream (again, featuring Vu on Trumpet), which segued into the PMG standard, "Are You Going With Me."

One of the biggest surprises came when Metheny told the crowd how he discovered that Bona is also a virtuoso on the bass guitar--with a style reminiscent of the late Jaco Pastorius. Using that as his cue, he joined Bona and Sanchez on a trio version of "Bright Size Life."

The most thrilling moment of the show for many in the audience was when the band played "The Roots of Coincidence," which found the normally subdued Mays power-chording away on an electric guitar. "Too cool," "awesome" and "unbelievable" were just a few of the things overheard as the song came to a quiet ending. As the perfect example of never knowing what to expect from the guitarist, Metheny picked up a mini guitar after "Roots" for a tender duo with Mays on "In Her Family."

The concert ended almost three hours after it began with "Song for Bilbao" as the encore. Although it wasn't as good as the version on Travels, the crowd was clearly pleased. Aside from a few technical glitches with the lighting, and one particularly obnoxious person in the audience who insisted on yelling "HOO HOO" every few minutes, this was an exceptional performance from one of the greatest guitarists of our time.

© 2002 Steve Marshall