Friday, May 30, 2008

Return to Forever Returns

I attended the kick-off show of the Return to Forever Returns tour, at the Paramount Theater. I was quite surprised that it happened in fact, given some of DiMeola's and White's previous comments that the obstacle to a reunion was Chick's religion.

The evening started at the New Amsterdam bar with friends who are mostly musicians and heavy Prog/Fusion fans. We had also gotten together at a Memorial Day BBQ and watched DVDs of RTF (and other fusion bands), as a pregame. After speculating on what the show would entail, we trekked over to the Paramount which was almost sold out.

You could feel a general sense of excitement within the crowd, as they anticipated the show to come. As I took my seat, I noticed that the soundman was playing Tony Williams' album, Believe It (nice choice). I was probably right at the mean age of the crowd, so there were lots of gray ponytails in the audience ;)

I was sitting 6 rows back and 3 seats in from the aisle, on the left with DiMeola and Lenny White directly in front of me. The show began fairly promptly at about 8:10PM with an unusual touch, the band received a standing ovation before they had even started playing. I think this helped them immeasurably, and they appeared to all be in good spirits, as a result. At times, they even seemed quite emotional about it.

All in all, the show consisted of 2 sets lasting 65-75 mins, with an intermission and a 2 song encore. I think the whole thing came in about 2 hours and 40 minutes. Understandably, the first 3 or 4 songs were a little rough around the edges, before they settled into a good groove. I estimate that the house sound wasn't properly tweaked until later in the first set.

I should mention at this time, that I had seen every member of this band except Lenny White, as solo acts. The last time I had seen DiMeola, I didn't really enjoy it that much. I knew Lenny White was a bad-ass though, you don't replace Tony Williams in Miles Davis' band if you aren't. I am not familiar with the RTF catalog with this lineup, since all of my RTF albums have Bill Connors, not Al DiMeola. This didn't detract from my enjoyment of the show, in this context everyone shined.

The songs were all arranged, but there was a good deal of improvisation, even with DiMeola and Clarke using charts. There was enough nervousness on the part of the band, to make the solos interesting and feel honest. I am convinced that if I had in fact returned to see the Friday show, it would not feel like a replay of the night before.

For the second set, they went all acoustic with DiMeola on a nylon string, Clarke on upright bass, and Chick on a Yamaha grand. This was really special. DiMeola's and Chick's playing is almost frightening at times.

Surprisingly, a full account of the show was posted on the website before noon Friday. It includes a Set List and photos. I took a few additional photos with my iPhone.

Return to Forever

If possible, I was thinking I would like to catch this group after they had been touring for a few months, just to see what they sound like. Other than that, I enjoyed this night of music immensely. I have also reconsidered some of the things I said previously about DiMeola.

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