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Sunday, April 28, 2019

John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension @ the Barbican, London – April 23.

John McLaughlin (guitar, vocals); Gary Husband (keyboards, drums, vocals); Etienne M'bappe (bass, vocals); Ranjit Barot (drums, vocals).
(Review by Steve T)

The person who introduced the show observed that you can punctuate your life via the different phases of John McLaughlin. My own experience of the uber guitarist has been more intermittent, with my first in ‘73, two in the mid-nineties and three in the last four years.

I thought we might get some more Mahavishnu Orchestra and they opened with Trilogy, the long piece from Between Nothingness and Eternity (1973), with some added konnakol singing from Ranjit Barot, variously described as Indian scat singing and Indian drum language.

Thereafter, the set was drawn from across his long career, including Love and Understanding from Electric Dreams (1979) and Pharoah Saunder's The Creator Has a Masterplan, which he originally covered on the album he shared with Carlos Santana (also ‘73).
Most of the rest was perfectly enjoyable but, as with much post-seventies fusion, tended to blend into each other, despite inspired musicianship by all concerned. This more or less culminated in the inevitable drawn-out drum duel between Barot and Husband, some more konnakol breaking it up.

After the golden age of rock concerts, drum solos more or less fell out of favour and, while I welcome their recent return, I prefer the concise variety.

A welcome encore but a disappointment that he didn't dip back into the Mahavishnu catalogue, choosing something written by Husband he described, rather dubiously, as rock and roll.

They received an appropriate level of adulation from an ever so nearly sell-out Barbican. At seventy-seven, he's still mighty impressive, though noticeably less so than four years ago or eighteen months ago, which was precisely the motivation for the trip. A final homage to an extraordinary musician and artist who had a massive impact on me all those years ago.

I won't be travelling any distance to see this band again, but don't bet against future collaborations with old sparring partners, including Zakir Hussain, Chick Corea, Jean Luc Ponty, Al DeMiola, Santana, Kenny Garrett, Trilok Gurtu, Stanley Clarke, Joey De Francesco, Christian McBride, L Shankar, Narada Michael Walden, Dave Holland, Billy Cobham, Jan Hammer, Rick Laird, Jerry Goodman etc etc ad infinitum.    
Steve T.

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