Monday, May 23, 2022

John McLaughlin @ l'Auditorium de la Seine Musicale, Boulogne-Billancourt - May 23rd, 2022

Five years after his last concert in the French capital, and a few months into his 81st year, John McLaughlin returns to Paris (well, Boulogne-Billancourt, close enough) with his star-studded 4th Dimension band. This is the first night of the tour and John's first concert in a few years, having been sidelined by the pandemic like much of his peers and colleagues. His most recent record Liberation Time was therefore mostly recorded remotely, with each musician contributing their parts from different places in the world.

Last time we were in this beautiful concert hall was to attend a concert by Stanley Clarke, and like last time the sound quality is delightful. Crisp yet warm, it's a welcome contrast from the rock venues we usually patronize. Also playing tonight in Paris, in a different venue, is McLaughlin friend and disciple Mike Stern, and it was slightly heartbreaking having to make a choice... Given the overlap between their audiences, it might have been a good idea to fuse both events together, which could potentially have resulted in a breathtaking jam session... Oh, well.

Despite his advancing years, McLaughlin doesn't seem ready to slow down. Literally. His playing is as lightning-fast as ever, his flurries of notes assembled in bursts of spastic musical motifs and phrases, as virtuosic as ever. His bandmates are equally impressive but the whole thing never veers into empty demonstration. In music, emotion is key and there was plenty to go around on that stage. 

It's hard to say who of the band or the audience was more appreciative of the other but after the musicians left the stage, after the crowd left the venue and scattered in the rain, it was obvious that neither would forget the evening they had spent together.

Check out John McLaughlin on Apple Music HERE.

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