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PAT METHENY GROUP:  SPEAKING OF NOW LIVE

Review by Michael Jacobson

Band:  Pat Metheny, Lyle Mays, Steve Rodby, Richard Bona, Guong Vy, Antonio Sanchez
Director:  Takayuki Watanabe
Audio:  Dolby Digital, DTS, Dolby Stereo
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Eagle Eye
Features:  None
Length:  135 Minutes
Release Date:  November 25, 2003

Concert ***

When Pat Metheny first arrived on the music scene decades ago, he brought an elegant fire to world of jazz guitar that opened ears and inspired smiles.  Today, after working as a solo artists, with other stars, in a trio and with his group, he remains one of the most consistently admired and acclaimed musicians around, winning five Grammies, producing and recording a string of well received albums, and touring constantly to the delight of devoted fans around the world.

Speaking of Now Live showcases the Pat Metheny group on stage in Tokyo, playing some older favorites and plenty of new material from their then-current album Speaking of Now.  It’s a solid concert, with both Pat and his fellow musicians in fine form.  The PMG is one band that benefits greatly from performing live; it gives them the opportunity to expand their songs, flesh them out, play around with the arrangements, and just flat out jam.  In other words, you don’t really know what these tunes can be until you see these guys working them for all they’re worth in front of a crowd.

From Pat’s solo acoustic opening of the eloquent “Last Train Home” and a rousing guitar/drum piece “Go Get It”, the band comes together and marches through more than two hours of great jazz and fusion music.  Pat leads the way with his fiery and beautiful work on tunes like “How Insensitive”, electrifies the sound with synth guitar on “Proof”, and brings in more acoustic work on “A Place in the World”. 

But he generously relinquishes the spotlight to his bandmates as the concert progresses.  Every man gets his chance to shine…the most memorable solo might be the strange, stirring trumpet sounds from Cuong Vu on “Scrap Metal”.

Writing partner Lyle Mays remains one of my favorite men on keys, as he lifts each song with his beautiful voicings, and co-producer Steve Rodby shows off his superb touch on the upright bass.  Add the dexterous Antonio Sanchez on drums and the soaring vocals of Richard Bona (also rhythm guitar and percussion), and you have all the elements that have made the Pat Metheny Group a crossover success for so many years.

Musicians may appreciate this concert first and foremost, but even the casual fan is liable to understand the appeal of the inimitable Pat Metheny, and why he’s remained one of the most relevant guitar heroes for such a long time now.  As someone who’s played guitar for many years himself, I can tell you flat out…it ain’t as easy as he makes it look!

Video **

Filmed on video, this concert is decidedly watchable, but suffers some of the limitations of tape.  Bits of color bleeding are noticeable, and the range of lighting effects from hot to low are occasionally too much to ask for from a magnetic media source.  Images are a bit soft, but still distinguishable.  Nothing here should make you pass up the title, but it won’t be one of the best looking ones you own.

Audio ***

DTS and Dolby Digital tracks bring the passion of Metheny’s music to life…they’re listed on the back as 4.1 tracks, but from my experience with it, I believe it’s a subwoofer signal that’s missing.  There’s still plenty of dynamic range and clarity, from the loudest chords to the lightest percussion sounds.

Features (zero stars)

Nothing.

Summary:

Speaking of Now Live is a terrific showcase for the Pat Metheny Group.  The band plays a couple of hours worth of great music and demonstrate why they’ve remained a jazz and fusion favorite for so long.  Pat and his band are all in top form…his fans should be pleased with this offering.