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Pat Metheny At The Paramount Theatre

Pat Metheny At The Paramount Theatre

Courtesy Steven Roby

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Pat Metheny
Paramount Theatre
Denver, Colorado
October 15, 2023

Award-winning jazz guitarist and composer Pat Metheny embarked on a 51-venue, 29-state solo tour supporting his 2023 Dream Box recording. At Denver's Paramount Theatre, loyal fans lined up early for the sold-out show, and it was elbow-to-elbow for the next two hours in the 1800-seat venue.

Metheny's tour allows him to be a solo performer, playing tunes from his solo record catalog and—wait for it—engaging with the crowd between songs.

"This is the most I've talked on the microphone in the last 40 years," joked Metheny after his first number. "This is a very different kind of performance for me. I'm really excited to get the chance to do this. And it's under the auspices of the recent release that's out."

The prolific artist has released 53 albums since 1976, each one unique in instrumentation and composition.

Metheny fondly spoke about starting on electric guitar at nine years old, listening to The Beatles, but things changed when his brother brought home a Miles Davis record. "It was a time when the Kansas City jazz scene was really still happening, and I was very lucky to get the chance to be around great musicians at a very young age," Metheny revealed to the crowd. "I was so lucky to get to play with those amazing guys!"

Metheny reminisced about his friendship with bassist Charlie Haden and their 1997 acoustic album, Beyond the Missouri Sky (Verve). "Not only did he and I end up doing tons of things together, like with Ornette Coleman, Michael Brecker, Joshua Redman, Abbey Lincoln, and many other people, we became best friends," recalled Metheny. "People have told me that they've gotten married and divorced to 'Missouri Sky,' and if they only have one record of mine, it's this one I did with Charles."

Metheny played a medley of songs from that album, including "Message to a Friend," along with many memorable songs of the night, but the edgiest was "Zero Tolerance for Silence." On the other side of the spectrum was "Song for the Boys." "When my sons were three and five, they would not go to sleep, but when I started playing that, they would run around, poop, and go to sleep," recalled the guitarist. He pointed out that his younger son Jeffery was working the merch table that evening.

In plain dark pants and grey t-shirt, Metheny remained seated for most of the show, on a black background stage, surrounded by stage monitors, a few amps, and black draped objects the size of washing machines—a mystery revealed later in the show. With his head bowed over the various acoustic guitars that his tech crew brought out like a seven-course meal, all that could be seen of his head was a grey, bushy, sheepdog-like mane, and an occasional glimpse of his nose, until he came up for air to chat with the crowd between songs. An audience member remarked it looked like he wore a boiled wool ski cap with ear flaps.

One of the highlights of the evening was watching Metheny play a custom-built hybrid harp/guitar called the Pikasso. It has multiple necks, two sound holes, and an abundance of crisscrossing strings. Luthier Linda Manzer built the 42-string acoustic masterpiece. Metheny explained that when he gets an idea for an instrument, he sketches it out on a napkin. While most would think he's nuts and walk away, Manzer has taken him seriously for the past 40 years and manifests his dreams.

Toward the concert's end, stagehands pulled aside a curtain behind the artist and unshrouded the other objects to reveal several mounted guitars and the mighty Orchestrion. Technically, the Orchestrion employs "acoustic and acoustoelectric musical instruments that are mechanically controlled in various ways, using solenoids and pneumatics."

For the uneducated, it recalled a mechanical contraption that one might find in an amusement arcade from decades past. Put a quarter in and watch it play xylophones and percussion instruments with flashing lights that are synchronized to the music. All that's missing is the cymbal-banging toy monkey.

Metheny then moved around the stage, looping on various guitars to play bass and rhythm melodies, while he played lead on a Roland electric synthesizer guitar, creating a stage full of Pats. The appreciative audience, "one-fifth guitar nerds," as he characterized them, were in awe.

After cheers and the first of two standing ovations, he jogged off stage but quickly returned for two encores, including a sweet ending with a soulful "Wichita Lineman."

Setlist Medley: Phase Dance/Minuano/As It Is/First Circle/Praise; Medley: Two for the Road/Cinema Paradiso; Song for the Boys; Message to a Friend; Zero Tolerance for Silence Sketch; Pikaso guitar solo; Alfie / Rainy Days and Mondays / That's the Way I've Always Heard It Should Be / Garota de Ipanema / Last Train Home; La Crosse; Medley: My One and Only Love/Here, There & Everywhere/Somewhere; Morning of the Carnival; Calvin's Keys; The Bat; Signals.

Encore And I Love Her; Sueño con México; Wichita Lineman.

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