Chick Corea and Return to Forever played a one-date show at the Sony Centre (formerly the Hummingbird) on Wednesday, as part of their first reunion tour in more than 25 years. It was the classic lineup: Chick Corea on keys, Al Di Meola on guitar, Stanley Clarke on bass and Lenny White on drums.
And wow. Like, wow.
These guys, after first pioneering jazz-rock back in the 70’s, still know how to jazz-rock da hi-zouse. All four of them must be in their sixties by now, and they kept alluding to their age throughout the show. At one point, the bassist walked up to the microphone and said, emphatically: “In this age of boy bands, [long pause], we are a MAN band”, then strapped his bass back on and they proceeded to rock out with the coolest, grandest of tunes.
‘Grand’ is the best word I can think of to describe this band. Their music was confident, and cool, and bold. Intricate at times, funky at others, acoustic at still others, but overall just really, infectiously, grand. Giant Steps, if you will.
The charming thing was that they were really modest. They took the stage without fanfare, kept thanking the audience for its support, signed a bunch of autographs and shook hands with people in the front row, and told us all the music was stuff they’d been experimenting a lot with recently, and hoped that we liked it. Most tellingly though, and most refreshingly, they didn’t make the crowd work for the encore – they pretty much came back onstage immediately after walking off. (Something I’ve never seen even with much smaller bands).
That being said, they were idols, and it was obvious – they got a standing ovation before the show even started. And there were black-clad technicians running around on stage all night, adjusting equipment, bringing on or off instruments, even helping the guitarist adjust his guitar strap.
Given that RTF hadn’t toured together in 25 years, they had a lot of material to share with the audience – they played for almost 3 hours. Besides the fact that it was an hour past my bedtime by the time they finished, I wasn’t complaining (just dozing – a little – in my seat).
The main problem of the evening was actually with the audience: there seemed to be an unfortunate presence of what my jazz buddy called “concert douchebags” – people that get p$@% drunk and yell out stupid things at the most inappropriate of times. Like during incredible solos, or contemplative riffs, or any other time when everybody else was getting really deep into the music and the last thing they wanted to hear is some idiot yell out “Chick! Chick! Chick!” repeatedly. And the hall’s acoustics were so clear that it picked up every sound from the audience and broadcasted it clearly to the rest of the hall. I don’t understand why these people didn’t get kicked out for seriously disrupting everybody else’s experience.
But anyway, I digress. It was a grand show. By a veteran, grand band.