Gibson Amphitheatre, Friday, June 13
Returning to the stage after 25 years of silence, Return to Forever still hasn’t learned the secret of lasting forever: Your solos don’t have to be that long.
The quartet’s followers from its 1970s heyday, ex-midnight riders with less hair and more belly, filled the Gibson Amphitheatre on Friday, oblivious to the fact that the heyday in question was in the last century.
But they were having fun again, and so were the boys in the band. Chick Corea wielded with enhanced acceleration his heavily tweaked Rhodes and the other electronic artillery in his bunker, shifting for the second half to an acoustic piano. That one he also goosed by tapping the lower strings with a mallet.
To either instrument, he brought a double ration of fingers in addition to the percussion apparatus. The paying guests did not seem troubled by his inability to let go of a phrase. They liked the way he soared all the way into the seventh galaxy, which was impressive all right.
They got cooking at the slightest provocation, these guys, driven by the brawny or at least robust bass work of Stanley Clarke and the well-targeted, precision drum work of Lenny White, the only member of the quartet who was not afraid to use those short little marks on the staff called rests. This was evident on such numbers as “Sofistifunk.”
None of the other soloists, all of ’em chock-full of blinding virtuosity, seemed able to let well enough alone.
This was even a problem for the most lovable member of the ensemble, guitarist Al Di Meola, who confessed to being a bebopper. He captured the ear with a passion-filled Iberian number on a jumbo acoustic guitar. But he followed that with a number that was just like it.
Di Meola nonetheless seemed to have a message he wanted to impart — not merely the fact that he could stunt spectacularly all evening. Every 10 or 12 bars he’d slip in a hint of a blues lick, as if to say, “Hey, I’m really one of the cats.” ∂