Pat Metheny Group ‘We Live Here:’ Live in Japan is a visually superb Digital Video Disc (DVD) display of Pat Metheny’s improvisation skills and the power of the PMG on October 12, 1995.
Individual talent is at the heart of this 110 minute collection – a chronicle rooted in the multiple instrumental leanings of the PMG during the We Live Here World Tour. Almost every musician stages his unique skills in a unified statement of songs ranging from the We Live Here album to those songs most treasured by PMG fans: “First Circle,” “This Is Not America” and “Here to Stay.”
“To me, the whole concert is one long tune. To me, we’ve been working on one long song for the history of the group,” says Metheny.
Keyboardist and song co writer, Lyle Mays, points out the distinction of this DVD collection: “This last record (We Live Here), I think, involved more collaboration than we’ve been doing, in that back and forth way, since the early days of the group.”
Moments of the group’s musical ascension punctuate this DVD in a way that illustrates the force of collective purpose. After a mainstream start, we move from an ardent statement of “First Circle” to the organized chaos of “Scrap Metal” – both staples of PMG concerts in the 1990s. Paul Wertico’s drum solo displays more rock than jazz in this incarnation. He later teams up for a compelling duet in which Brazilian percussionist Armando Marcal hammers on syncopation. “Episode D’Azur” quintessentially mixes Lyle Mays’ classical and atmospheric keyboarding with gorgeous imagery: large head of hair, bony hands on a lanky frame draped with a shirt that has always been too large.
Interview anecdotes from Pat Metheny and members of the group nicely offset the changes in the musical styles. David Blamires learning to play the accordion? When Metheny asked, Blamires did it (in two months) and played it in “Antonia,” one of the only songs from 1992’s Secret Story to be performed live. “Percussion?” asked Metheny. “Sure,” replied Mark Ledford. Little did he know he would soon take mallet lessons: learning and expanding – a requisite of any role in the Pat Metheny Group.
In the mid 1990s, Metheny pushed himself and his group to the outer limits of their relationships with music and that clearly shows in this narrative. PMG fans have seen this in concert but we may not have seen it done this well on video.
The production and direction style of Takayuki Watanabe personalizes this document in eclipse of Imaginary Day Live Here, Watanabe peppers our visual sense with camera shots and stage colors in careful consideration of our ability to understand such technical combinations. We come away feeling like we witnessed a special event.
Vocalists Mark Ledford and David Blamires shine in striking contrast for a group version of “This Is Not America” (from the soundtrack of the movie The Falcon and the Snowman) that almost erases our memory of David Bowie’s original performance.
“To the End of the World” may be the highest point of this concert performance: a volcanic crescendo that erupts into emotive character. Leave it to the PMG to pack such musical range into one piece, and pull it off.
Why did they wait for six years to release this recording?
“My relationship to music is a very personal one,” says Metheny. “To get it to be the best it can be is an ongoing quest for me. So, you know, if somebody likes it, that’s great...but on the other hand, it doesn’t really alter what I’m doing that much.”
Pat Metheny Group ‘We Live Here:’ Live in Japan should occupy a spot on our video library shelves as a permanent example of how individuals can contribute to a singular musical achievement.
· Studio: Image Entertainment.
· Picture Format: Full Frame.
· Sound Format: PCM Stereo.
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