Palpable excitement rippled through the Lobero Theatre as John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension took the stage last Thursday night. For fans of McLaughlin’s 40-plus year career, this night was bound to be something special, and they expressed their appreciation with a standing ovation even before a single note was played. Such an overture was certainly deserved, as he has played with such musical giants as Tony Williams, Jaco Pastorius, Miles Davis, and Dennis Chambers, to name just a few. He is comfortable playing in any genre, from jazz-rock fusion to classical and everything in between and outside. He is truly one of the greatest guitarists ever.
Without a word, McLaughlin launched into a fiery opener that featured not only his own virtuosity, but also that of the stellar lineup of his 4th Dimension band. With Gary Husband on keys and percussion, Hadrien Feraud on bass, and Mark Mondesir on drums, each had their moment in the spotlight. In this opener and throughout the night, McLaughlin would step to the side of the stage and allow his band the freedom to explore. Sometimes McLaughlin vamped chords as they played, while at others he went on the scintillating runs for which he is known; at other times, he just stood and simply listened.
The evening began with numbers off his recent album, Industrial Zen, along with songs he labeled as “unknown.” With such a large repertoire of music from which to choose, McLaughlin masterfully alternated between softer ballads and driving electric fusion. Midway through the concert, he approached the microphone to introduce “Hijacked,” a song featuring Feraud. The sheer pace of this song was mind-numbing, but McLaughlin combined his amazing technical ability with an innate sense of when to push and when to use space.
McLaughlin ended the evening with “Mother Tongues” (off his The Heart of Things: Live in Paris), a rhythmically challenging piece that once again showed off the chemistry between these great musicians. At the end of the show, although the band was done playing for the evening, the audience was not done listening. A chant arose for a second encore, but unfortunately this persistence only succeeded in bringing a bow from the band. But this in no way stained an incredible evening of music from some remarkable musicians.