Return To Forever kicked off their ‘Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy’ tour in Australia and Undercover dropped in to see their Melbourne show.
Excitement was building as the packed audience was shuffled through the antique doors of Melbourne’s beautiful Regent Theatre. Audience members knew they were about to be treated to a performance from a whole band comprised of true icons and their expectations were high.
The band entered the stage to an overblown classical piece blasting through the PA before launching into their third album (and first electric album) ‘Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy’.
So what happened? Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Jean-Luc Ponty, Lenny White and Frank Gambale on one stage should have been explosive, but the band felt loose and unable to get into a groove. As time went on they eventually found their way into their groove, but the first set still felt like it was lacking the energy it could have had.
A twenty minute intermission seemed to recharge the band’s batteries. As they returned to the stage, they had switched to acoustic instruments. Stanley Clarke’s impressive stature dwarfed his double bass and he began to play it like nothing I had seen before.
The band felt more comfortable with each other and with the audience. They had found a groove and they weren’t going to let it go.
Lenny White introduced the Stanley Clarke composition ‘New York’ to the audience as a song they had never played live before. He compared it to watching Picasso begin a painting from scratch, saying sometimes he’ll paint a line and then start again, but the amazing part would be watching it happen, mistakes and all. The band was on fire by this point, however, and there were no obvious mistakes in earshot (at least to my untrained ears).
The show wound up with a double shot of jazz superhits; Jean-Luc Ponty’s 1977 masterpiece ‘Mirage’ (his only spoken words for the night was explaining the difference between the word’s pronunciation by French speakers and English speakers), followed by Chick Corea’s ‘Spain’ - off Return To Forever’s second album ‘Light As A Feather’.
Return To Forever started off feeling like an off-night, but they came together and managed to balance on that blurry line where virtuoso skills meets up with soulful tunes.
The band’s final show of their Australian tour will take place tomorrow night (February 17) at Brisbane’s QPAC Concert Hall.
Fans in the USA, Europe and Japan should look out for dates soon to be announced.
Check out Conor O'Brien from Villagers performing for Undercover's U-Sessions below: