Before I get started, I need to go back to my posts a couple months ago, where I posted about my favorite bassists, my favorite guitarists, etc. First, I need to scold myself, for leaving Al Di Meola off of the list of my favorite guitarists. Not only does he deserve to be ON that list, but he is now at the TOP of that list. After that post, I found a solo album of his, and was quite impressed with it. But, it wasn't until last night... seeing him play... that I fully came to appreciate his talents. You can get those old Return To Forever (henceforth, referred to as RTF) albums, and take note that he was only 19 when joining that band. By time "Romantic Warrior" came out, he was the tender age of 21. Not only is it amazing how young he was, but the technique is some of the best you will ever hear... or see. The Salt Lake City performance was the fifth on this tour, the first tour by RTF in 25 years. As the band stated, they were still in "rehearsal mode". I tell you what, if the performance we saw was merely a "rehearsal", then those witnessing RTF towards the end of the tour, will have their brains completely FRIED, when they witness these guys in "performance mode".
From the guitar work of Al Di Meola, to the bass playing of Stanley Clarke (at least I was wise enough to have him on the list of bassists), to the piano stylings of Chick Corea, the collective talents were something that I have heretofore NEVER seen, and most likely will NEVER see again.
I used to think that bands like King Crimson were "collectives" featuring the most talented musicians on Earth. But I must give that award to RTF. Not to criticize the talents of King Crimson, or Yes, or any number of Prog Rock bands, but I have yet to see anything like what I witnessed. In addition, this concert was one of the first where I actually witnessed a standing ovation BEFORE the band even began playing. And a lengthy one at that. It wasn't the typical applause, and let's get busy... it was several minutes of continuous applause, with the band thoroughly enjoying their reception. Not just that, but Governor Jon Huntsman was in attendance, and had proclaimed June 4, 2008 as Return To Forever Day, in the state of Utah. For a Republican, he's a pretty cool guy. And not just because of that. He honestly seems to care about the state, and not just the lobbyists. But this isn't a Jon Huntsman, Jr. review, now is it?!? NO!
Anyhow, the show clocked in at nearly 3 hours, including a 20 minute break, which is an amazingly long show, not to mention the stamina those guys had, making it through the rigorous solos, etc. The truly amusing part of it, was seeing the members performing with sheet music. Al Di Meola did an acoustic guitar solo, the likes of which I have never heard, and through most of it he was crouched over looking at his music. How he could have fit that many notes on to sheet music, I will never know.
And then there was the Stanley Clarke upright acoustic bass solo. I literally was beating myself on the head, I was so blown away by what he was doing. He was slapping that bass, like a dad slapping his unruly kids arse. Just kidding, folks. He was BETTER!
I am full of hope that this tour will not only encourage the guys to release a CD/DVD box set of tour material, but maybe get them back into the studio, working on some new music. I hear that the band allegedly broke up due to differences in the band, revolving around Scientology. After reading the liner notes to the new 2 CD anthology, it is evident that Chick Corea is a very devout Scientologist. Those darned Scientologists always breaking things up. First RTF, then Chef on South Park... but those guys seemed to have a genuine love and respect for each other, that I haven't seen in a band, before. I saw Tears For Fears a few years ago, in an intimate acoustic performance, with only 100 or so people, and you could tell that there was still a significant amount of animosity between Curt and Roland. Even though they still managed to record an album, and are still apparently together, there was a tension. RTF was free of that. They genuinely showed a love for each other.
From the band, to their talents, to the audience, this was one of the... no, it was THE best performance I have ever seen. If you have the chance to see them, in a city near you, do not hesitate. It is a historical tour, and those guys are legendary musicians, one and all. Several times throughout the evening, I was literally breathless with what I saw. And you will be, too...
Kingsbury Hall - Salt Lake City, UT
Hymn Of The 7th Galaxy
Song To The Pharoah Kings
Guitar Solo Intro
Piano Solo Intro
The Romantic Warrior
Duel Of The Jester And The Tyrant
Beyond The Seventh Galaxy
Now playing: Saga - Give 'Em The Money