Written by Bria Thurman
My first live musical performance……was……
September 6th, 2019 – my 18th birthday- I went to the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts to watch Pat Metheny Side-Eye featuring James Francies and Marcus Gilmore. I have never been very particularly fond of Jazz music. I do have a soft spot for the likes of Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong though. On a slow Saturday morning, there is a good chance I am listening to them or Nina Simone whose music has been extremely impactful to my life. Their music has an important place in my heart and in my growth as a musician. On this particular evening, I did not feel any impact, I thought Metheny’s performance was okay. I went in expecting something interesting and new and I left with… well…. a side-eye. I just expected more and wanted more. I feel like all of the songs he played did not leave me satisfied as I feel music is suppose to. The performance was not really a performance and he did not really engage the audience. I was not expecting him to sing or to have rave-like flashing lights. I expected a professional performance and I feel it was more professional than performance.
When I went into the Tryon Festival Theatre I saw an interesting setup and I wanted an explanation for what I saw. The longer I sat looking at the stage the more anticipation I felt. When I looked around at the audience I saw a lot of older men in jeans and black turtlenecks and automatically thought, Steve Jobs must have been a fan. When the concert began Pat Metheny came out on stage and spoke and introduced the audience to James Francies and Marcus Gilmore who played the keyboard and the drums. I thought together their performances did not blend well but when they had their moments to shine in their solos, Metheny included, it allowed the audience to really see their full artistry. All three of them were kind of a weird mix that needed to be better developed.
About an hour and a half in, Methany began to perform solo and that was when I started to spark an interest in the show. The way he played reminded me of the feeling of playing an instrument in a childhood bedroom. That was the moment that felt the most passionate. Throughout the performance I felt the crowd was a little overzealous, clapping every 2 minutes at moments I wasn’t sure was the beginning or end of a song. However, when Methany performed by himself, that was the moment that was most redeemable and deserving of praise in terms of my expectations that may or may not be valid as a non-jazz fan. As he was demonstrating his skill and stature he brought out a 42 string guitar, that as a young guitarist, made me anxious. While writing this I read a little about the types of guitars he played and this was one that was made especially for him. It was very interesting to see an instrument that looked unplayable being played.
Overall, I probably won’t go to another Pat Methany performance again. I am not really sure what I heard throughout a great portion of the performance. For a moment, I felt like I was in an elevator and became mindless, just waiting to get off. If this music was Jazz, I am not sure where Billie Holiday would stand within the mix. The most surprising part was how attached he was to the chord progressions. As someone who wants to become a better guitarist, my greatest takeaway was that it was kind of educational. However as a music lover, I am not really sure this performance was geared toward listeners like me. If he would have engaged a little more with the audience I think I would have enjoyed myself somewhat. I kept waiting for more and never got it. 🤔