John McLaughlin and 4th Dimension, enacting a vital transformation.
John McLaughlin and 4th Dimension, enacting a vital transformation. Dave Segal

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Have you ever gone to a concert that was so overwhelmingly stimulating, so crammed with virtuosic musicianship, so spiritually uplifting, that you cried tears of gratitude at the end of it and forgot about the terminal shittiness of the world? Well, that happened to me last night at the Moore Theatre. Jazz-fusion guitar deity John McLaughlin and his band 4th Dimension joined forces with Allman Brothers/Widespread Panic/Aquarium Rescue Unit/the Dead guitarist Jimmy Herring and Invisible Whip last night at the Moore Theatre to perform tracks from Mahavishnu Orchestra's classic albums Inner Mounting Flame, Birds of Fire, Between Nothingness and Eternity, Visions of the Emerald Beyond, and more. Both units also did their own sets, which would have been sufficient enrichment for a night on their own. We sure enough got surfeited with godly sonic benevolence. I don't think I've witnessed a crowd of this seniority (average age: approximately 57) respond with so much enthusiastic love in... maybe forever. This three-hour spectacular will go down as one of the greatest live-music experiences of this century in my and many other people's books, I'd imagine.

The jazz-fusion pyrotechnics that these superhumans summoned is the epitome of niche music in 2017, but it once sold out hockey arenas in the early '70s—a flabbergasting thought from today's perspective. (The Moore was not packed, but the turnout was pretty strong, especially for a Tuesday night in December.)

Detractors have dismissed fusion as masturbatory exhibitionism, but at its best (Mahavishnu, Miles Davis's electric bands, Return to Forever, Tony Williams Lifetime, Billy Cobham, Larry Coryell, Michał Urbaniak, certain Weather Report LPs, etc.), these artists combine phenomenal dexterity, eccentric melodic grace, and rhythmic inventiveness with a soul-saturating passion that could incinerate any skepticism. These musicians were/are akin to Olympic athletes operating at the summit of their physical and mental powers. And this was on abundant display on the Moore's stage. [See the setlist and videos below for further elucidation.]

The Meeting of the Spirits tour reportedly will be McLaughlin's final appearance in America. You have three more chances to catch him and his cohorts: tonight at Revolution Hall in Portland, December 8 at the Warfield in San Francisco, and December 9 at Royce Hall- UCLA in Los Angeles. Do what you can not to miss this master of serpentine fire music.

Setlist

Here Come the Jiis
Play Video
Lila's Dance
New Blues Old Bruise
El Hombre Que Sabia
Light at the Edge of the World (Pharoah Sanders cover)
Echoes From Then
[Mahavishnu Orchestra segment]
Meeting of the Spirits
Birds of Fire
Dawn
The Dance of Maya
Trilogy
Earth Ship
Eternity's Breath, Part 1
Eternity's Breath, Part 2