Music to my ears

REVIEW: While most people go deaf from hearing bagpipes on St. Patrick’s Day, jazz fanatics were lucky enough to celebrate the holiday with a concert by a living legend.

The 15-time Grammy Award — winning Pat Metheny Group impressed the many jazz fans who nearly filled Ruth Eckerd Hall’s Morsani Hall for a performance on March 17. The show was a part of The Way Up world tour, named after the group’s most recent recording, and the energetic concert offered a brilliant display of musical ability.

With the house lights still up, Pat Metheny walked on stage and was greeted with a standing ovation by the audience before he even began to play. As he picked up an acoustic guitar, he looked up and cracked a proverbial smile. As the six other members of the Pat Metheny Group casually appeared on stage, the lights dimmed and the nearly countless sets of instruments on stage came to life.

Anyone present during the show would be able to admit that at times, it was easy to forget that one was surrounded by hundreds of other audience members. The intense yet intimate live performance of the Pat Metheny Group gave Morsani Hall an aura that jazz fans could find in a genuine jazz club.

Each musician had at least one opportunity to wow the crowd with a solo. The lengthy but extraordinary drum solo by Antonio Sanchez certainly stole the show, for it could be seen, heard and felt. The passion and precision exerted by Sanchez left the crowd in awe. At the end of his solo, the hall resonated with praise. His solo received the best of the audience’s reactions to any of the musicians’ performances.

After more than an hour of nearly pure music, Metheny once again cracked that familiar smile as the lights and music faded. The Pat Metheny Group took in a booming standing ovation while the stage lights came up and Metheny approached a microphone.

“We really appreciate it,” Metheny said. “It’s great to see you all.”

The audience grew louder.

“That was our entire new record,” Metheny said. “We’re going to keep on going.”

All the band members exited the stage except for Metheny and Sanchez, who proceeded to jam together. One by one, each musician returned, and once again, the crowd stared intently, mesmerized by the Pat Metheny Group’s remarkable display of skilled musicianship.

During one of the many intense sets that followed, pianist Lyle Mays caught the audience off guard in the best possible way. In the middle of a jazz piece, Mays stood to his feet and turned to face the audience, armed with an electric guitar. The Pat Metheny Group broke into a straight-up rock progression. It was a jazz concert gone rock show. Many screaming fans jumped to their feet during one of the most powerful segments of the performance.

Two hours and 40 minutes after the concert commenced, the Pat Metheny Group performed its final piece of the night — an energetic revolution of sound that brought the crowd back to its lively frame of mind. The result was another resounding standing ovation — one of many the band received throughout the evening.

Beams of light swept across the stage and the audience, and any boundaries between the band and the fans seemed to disappear. Metheny’s one-of-a-kind guitar — playing style seemed not only to draw in the crowd, but also bring the crowd together. His unique approach to music is one that audience members will either love or hate, but it is safe to say that during this performance, most attendees loved it.

The Pat Metheny Group was all smiles, apparently satisfied with their performance and pleased with the reaction of the audience. Metheny thanked the crowd, waved and jogged off stage.

It was an energetic end to an overall impressive performance.