Sound and spectacle from Metheny
With Larry Grenadier
At: Somerville Theatre, Sunday
Pat Metheny rarely lingers long in one place, and it’s hard to imagine anyone equally enjoying every stage of the guitarist’s decades-long musical journey. His own projects range from the sunny jazz/rock fusion of his Pat Metheny Group to the pitch-black noise guitar of his one-off album “Zero Tolerance for Silence.’’ And, over the years, he’s collaborated with musicians as varied as free improvisation patriarch Ornette Coleman, minimalist composer Steve Reich, and classically influenced jazz pianist Brad Mehldau.
Sunday’s concert opened with the duo of Metheny on electric guitar and Larry Grenadier on acoustic bass. Mehldau’s melancholy “Unrequited’’ began with an etude-like guitar solo. Then Metheny embellished the melody over Grenadier’s purring propulsion. Grenadier’s bass solo was built logically, brick by brick, with Metheny comping nicely beneath, though his signature reverb-soaked sound blurred the chords somewhat.
“Bright Size Life’’ was greeted with a burst of applause, and raised the energy with its leaping melody and fleet guitar. The gentle “Soul Cowboy’’ found Metheny soloing more spaciously. On “Change of Heart’’ a loping, bluesy line with a few hitches to its stride, Grenadier walked commandingly, while Metheny interjected the occasional Monkish dissonance. Grenadier’s double-time solo was impressively precise.
The concert’s latter section saw Metheny playing his custom-designed, 42-string Pikasso guitar, which sounds like harp, bass, dulcimer, sitar, and synthesizer all at once. Alone on stage, he improvised a stormy, cinematic soundscape. And, as if all those strings weren’t enough, he also rapped percussively on the wooden body of the instrument.
Then, the lighting changed to a spooky purple and green, creating a rock show vibe. Behold the Orchestrion! This stage-filling mad scientist device, complete with lights that twinkle in time, allowed Metheny to control an array of percussive and other instruments with his guitar synthesizer and foot pedals. While impressive in its way, the result resembled a 1970s sci-fi idea of how 21st century music might sound.
After this extravagant finale and resulting ovation, Metheny and Grenadier encored with two more guitar/bass duets, taking “Stranger in Town’’ and “James’’ at a blistering pace. Fully warmed up, the two played a marvelously cohesive and surprising game of musical cat and mouse.
But perhaps the finest moments of the evening had come earlier, smack dab in the middle, when Metheny turned to acoustic guitar for spare, sensitive readings of “Find Me in Your Dreams’’ and “Always and Forever,’’ exquisitely accompanied by Grenadier.
Kevin Lowenthal can be reached at Lowenthal.email@example.com.