REVIEW: Pat Metheny Quartet at the Barbican (2017 EFG LJF) – And Set List

Pat Metheny
Photo credit: John Watson / jazzcamera.co.uk. All Rights Reserved

Pat Metheny Quartet
Barbican, November 10. EFG LJF 2017. Review by Jon Turney)

“If you know the music, you’ll recognise some old tunes,” says Pat Metheny, mid-way through his mammoth set. That, and a quick name—check for the band (Antonio Sanchez on drums, Linda May Han Oh on bass, Gwilym Simcock on piano) was it for the announcements. Then: “we’re going to keep on playing for you”.

And keep on playing they did, no-one more than the leader. The band get small breaks, as various trios and duos configure. But aside from a brief solo piano segment, Metheny is active throughout. Now in his 60s, after 40-plus years on the road, it’s hard to think of anyone who projects more pure joy in music-making.

And the music is all his own. The current show reaches back to Bright Size Life, his first trio release for ECM back in 1976, with three or four of those most hummable tunes appearing early in the set. Then it ranges over the guitarist’s large output, with pieces from the various Pat Metheny groups and recordings with Holland and Haynes, and with John Scofield.

It is generally the jazzier side of his career, and that suits the current group – young hot-shots who grew up on his music – perfectly. The piano comping on the first few tunes is inaudible but as more space opens up the balance comes to Simcock and our own young piano star proves fully as resourceful as Metheny. Linda Oh is hyper-responsive on bass and Sanchez, though his busyness can be relentless, is technically immaculate and reduces the energy levels when he needs to.

L-R: Gwilym Simcock, Pat Metheny, Linda May Han Oh, Antonio Sanchez
Photo credit: John Watson / jazzcamera.co.uk. All Rights Reserved

They complement the many shades of guitar wizardry beautifully. Metheny begins solo on his custom-built, many stringed Pikasso, which produces a sound I don’t care for but displays his orchestral instincts to good effect, then switches between solid-bodied and hollow electric instruments. Other guitars come and go, but Pat keeps on playing. There are long stretches of impassioned speed-jazz soloing, slow ballads, a fast electric blues that triggers old-school exchanges with drums and bass, a seriously fuzz-ed up free episode that leads to an exuberant collective improv, acoustic reflections and electric playing that sings, but also shrieks.

The two-hour set finishes with richly realised duos with piano, bass and drums in turn. But we’re not done. Pat, perspiring but still full of beans, returns for an extended solo acoustic medley which delivers enough music for another mini-concert, and there’s a lengthy final flourish from the quartet all together. A man as restlessly creative as this will surely move on to more projects. But for now, this career-retrospective, with this band, developing on tour for the last couple of years, is a hell of a show.


Into the Dream (Pikasso guitar- from Imaginary Day)
So It May Secretly Begin (from Still_Life (Talking))
Bright Size Life (from Bright Size Life)
Lone Jack (from Pat Metheny Group)
Unity Village (from Bright Size Life)
Better Days Ahead (from Letter from Home)
Always and Forever (from Secret Story)
What do You Want? (from Trio 99 – 00)
(B&G) Midwestern Nights Dream (from Bright Size Life)
The Red One (from I Can See Your House from Here)
Six and Eleven
Farmer’s Trust (from Travels)
Tell Her You Saw Me (from Secret Story)
Unidentified New Tune
Change of Heart (PM and LO duo)(from Question and Answer)
Phase Dance (PM and GS duo) (from Pat Metheny Group)
Question and Answer (PM and AS duo) (from Question and Answer)


PM solo medley
Song for Bilbao (from Travels)

LINK: Review from Ronnie Scott’s in 2016

Categories: miscellaneous

9 replies »

  1. Gwilym clearly struggling with ?RSI, constant stretching, warming/cooling of wrists and hardly playing on some songs, but no mention anywhere. Hope he gets it fixed soon.

  2. This was a terrible gig.

    I thought the fantastic musicianship and obvious talent of all involved was completely eclipsed by atrocious sounds.

    Not sure if it was a problem with the actual Barbican concert hall, the band's amplification or a mixture of the two: Missed opportunity

  3. He did look like he was wearing wrist supports, at least some of the time – but couldn't see them properly and didn't want to comment unbriefed. There were no such when I last heard him at length in September (in Ambleside). I didn't think it inhibited the playing during the final two thirds of the gig

  4. saw the Warwick show last week -agree about the sound quality, very disappointing, but amazing musicianship, & what a back catalogue

  5. wonderful sound from where I was sitting (circle; centre). 3 of us and all agreed it was among the best we'd been to. Gwilym was wearing some sort of wrist/lower arm support on his right arm at least and at times was wringing out his hand. Hope he's well soon. Metheny is on another planet and the set was long and varied. Outstanding.

  6. Totally agree with sound quality – saw them at Warwick Arts Centre and the sound was appalling! Couldn't hear a lot of what Pat was playing and when I could hear it the tone on his guitar was just awful. Couldn't decide if it was his choice of amp coupled with very poor PA?

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