Last Friday, John McLaughlin and his current band (The 4th Dimension) played at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium, and despite the fact that I had a very busy and exhausting weekend ahead of me, I made a last-minute decision to show up. I would like to say I didn’t regret it, but I’d be lying. This might come as a surprise to a bunch of folks, but I really actively disliked this concert.
Instead of the burning Mahavishnu-like fusion I was hoping for, what I got was something that had plenty of million-notes-a-minute soloing but little in the way of edge or tension. An excessively smooth bass sound and some really, really silly keyboard timbres (courtesy of Gary Husband, with whom I’m more familiar as a drummer) contributed to the overall feel of watching four amazing musicians play something akin to virtuosic smooth jazz. I was pretty much bored from the minute I set foot in the auditorium, and while I stayed for the duration of the show, hoping things would improve, they never did. To me it almost seemed like McLaughlin was channelling John Petrucci — Dream Theater gone fuzak — while Husband insisted on playing virtuosic keyboard solos using the thinnest, tinniest, silliest possible sounds. Seriously, even the cheesiest prog band would avoid the dorky keyboard sounds he was employing.
Uh, so, I didn’t exactly enjoy that one. You win some, you lose some.