Pat Metheny Wows Bergen PAC Audience With Orchestrion Performance

Posted by Maria Miaoulis in Jazz Events, Recaps & Reviews

October 11th, 2010   1 Comment »


Jazz guitarist and composer Pat Metheny thrilled fans with his Orchestrion Tour at Bergen PAC on Friday, October 8, 2010. PHOTO CREDIT: Carolina Performing Arts

Walking into the lobby of the Bergen PAC this past Friday, I was eagerly anticipating Pat Metheny’s Orchestrion show. A previous post I had written about it really got me excited to see his first-of-its-kind orchestrion invention up close.

He made his way onstage to thunderous applause and sat on a simple stool with his guitar before launching into some solo pieces, a mix of tunes from his early repertoire. Hunched over with his head down, you could only see a mass of curls while his nimble fingers struck chords that tugged at your heartstrings. Within minutes a mellow, easygoing aura fell upon the crowd, instantly mesmerizing them.

A short while later, after Metheny had started engaging some of the small orchestrion instruments, the curtain was raised to reveal a gigantic percussion and blown bottle section assembled behind him. For a moment I felt like I was in an electronics store with all the instruments moving and lighting up to indicate the beat being played on them. But the unbelievable part was Metheny was controlling them all at once using his guitar! That’s right! There were no drummers, trombonists, bassists or piano players onstage with him, even though you could hear their sounds and see that all the instruments were moving and following his dynamic.

To say that this was fascinating to watch would be a complete understatement. Equally amusing was watching Metheny coming to the end of a passionate number, only to turn to the instruments to make sure the crowd was applauding for them more than they were cheering for him.

Metheny thanked the audience for coming out that night, especially since “you didn’t know what you were getting into.” He then joked about the two most common questions he’s gotten about this tour: “When exactly did you lose your mind?” and “How does this all work?” The crowd chuckled when he cast aside the first and tried to explain the second through a few improvisational pieces. (Please see D.A. Gutierrez’s post for a more technical explanation of how Metheny’s orchestrion was made possible.)

Although it was over two-and-a-half hours, the show drew to a close too quickly. So we New Jerseyians did what we do best – we made ourselves heard through a rousing standing ovation. It was enough to bring Metheny back to center stage for a couple more numbers. “Italy and New Jersey are the best places to play,” he confessed, at which point we whooped and hollered again.

So the Jazzville, NJ crew had a night to remember thanks to one of the most incredible guitarists we’ve had the opportunity to see live. For those of you who haven’t had a chance to see Pat Metheny’s Orchestrion tour, there’s still time. Check out his site for more information.