Review: Chick Corea Elektric Band, Barbican Centre

Did I just die in the stalls. If my pores were eyes they would have been crying crystals, and I would have made sacred offering of them for the Gods on stage.

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‘Pardon me for saying, but you look a bit young to like Chick Corea,’ said an elderly gentlemen, who had traveled from Hertfordshire to see the gig. (He was 23 when he first saw Chick play solo, back in the 70’s.) I laughed. True, I’ve only heard 0.1% of his stuff. Not even the Elektric Band; I knew them only by reputation. I love going to shows, exhibitions and cinemas with fresh eyes and ears. Much more so this year; it’s a conscious decision to be like a child with no expectations.

Before the band stepped on stage, it was like the show had already ended and they had done three encores. The air was heavy with tears of adoration, and I was breathing it in. Chick was last to come on and for several seconds stood at the bottom of the steps, preparing his phone for filming the crazy audience, who screamed when the camera pointed at them. For the next two hours, I became a middle-aged man who already knew all the tunes by heart, ready to dance.

All five musicians – astounding: Chick Corea, Dave Weckl (drums), John Patitucci (bass), Eric Marienthal (sax), and Frank Gambale (guitar). Hearing them solo was like a going on a whirlwind tour of 5 of the 7 wonders of the world. Each of them so mighty and beautiful.

They were playful too, both in and out of performance. Switching keyboards, Chick doodled around the keys of the grand piano to test the sound effects, which were activated through the iPad. How I love that. It can be sweeter to know how many things a man can play and that only a fraction of this is heard in concert. Quite like an artist’s practice drawings and sculptures, musical noodling shows you more the mind of the person, rather than just what we see in the finished piece.

And I’d never known a drummer who could paint, until that night. Dave Weckl must be the son of Jackson Pollock, Monet and Van Gogh. At least. (Don’t know how that is biologically possible, but I leave that question to the scientists and historians.) Washes, glitters, pattering timbales; arms like propellers, axe-cutters and baseball beaters; how much bloody further could he go! All I could do was stare: he was landscape and wild water, ocean and hurricane in duet, sweeping around his drums and cymbals while everyone else was flaying themselves across the sky.

At the end, I stood there, motionless in the ovation, trying to understand what had happened. It took at least 15 minutes sitting in the lobby, before I could make myself go home.

 

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