Concert Report – Al Di Meola at Le Casino de Paris – 05/30/2011

It’s been a while since the last show I’ve attended at Le Casino de Paris. It’s been so long that I even forgot how good is the acoustics of this venue. It was the perfect venue for the guitar giant who played there last monday : Al Di Meola. Every guitarist knows at least one album from him (at least you would know the masterpiece Friday Night in San Francisco with Paco De Lucia & John McLaughlin).

Al Di Meola is a master in blending Jazz with musics from all around the world. He recently released Pursuit of Radical Rhapsody which is full of latin influences.

To tell you the truth, I am not an expert of Al Di Meola’s discography so I wasn’t sure what to expect at one of his gigs. Moreover, I’ve read several times that Al Di Meola can have such a sturdy character.

My first surprise was to notice that Al Di Meola seemed very casual, and happy to be here to play… Actually he even was grinning, and teasing when a spectator got up between two tunes to request one particular song. He didn’t rant and rave, he didn’t ignore the man… He actually played some excerpts of the tune, and then concluded half ironic, and half amused “You are great man. You know… There is one of you in every country”.

But let’s talk about the music if you will. Al Di Meola played tunes from several periods of his discography. The gig was full acoustic guitar (steel strings and nylon strings) with 3 other musicians at the guitar, at the accordion, and at the drums. The band is very homogeneous, and all 4 musicians illustrate what the Jazz Fusion style should be. Al Di Meola’s music is a fusion of many kind of musics. The latin influence is so obvious, and so pervasive that it would be best described as latin music with jazz elements instead of jazz music with latin elements.

Al Di Meola’s music is complexe either in its structure or the melodies but it is not inaccessible. Au contraire, the themes clearly comes up, the melodies highlighted by the accordion are beautiful, and the rhythm is lively.

Al Di Meola’s guitar traits are sometimes hard to follow… His style of playing could be qualified as acoustic shredding. The man plays fast! But neither his velocity nor the notes barrage, and fast arpeggiated chords did impress me as much as one particular aspect of his playing! The rhythm! Yes, his sense of rhythm, the way that he plays chords with his right hand : precise, and always on the right time! That’s what impressed me the most! If you don’t move at least the smallest part of your body, that means that you’re dead!

As I said before, I am not an expert of Al Di Meola’s discography, so it was hard to recognize every single tune though he introduced a good part of them. Still, I immediately recognized at least the last tune of the concert at the first strum : Mediterranean Sundance ! Among the best musical moments of the gig, I would count the beautiful tune Michelangelo (homage to his father) that Al Di Meola played alone, and two tangos composed by Astor Piazzolla!

For the guitar geeks, the concert was full acoustic but Al Di Meola used a couple of effects such as a distortion. He did use the distortion occasionally, and in a very tasteful way.  He also used Roland guitar VG-88 synth to get some psychedelic effects. But he always managed to keep a dry signal with a treated signal so the acoustic was alway present. Last technical aspect : the stage configuration. You may know that Al Di Meola suffers from hyperacusis so the stage configuration takes that into account. To avoid direct loud sounds in the ears, there are two plexiglass shields before the drums, and none of the stage monitors are oriented toward him.

It was a great show… It made me want to dig deeper in Al Di Meola’s albums from the last three decades.

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