This past Wednesday night, a diverse group of Ann Arbor residents gathered at the Michigan Theater to enjoy an evening of music by famous guitarists John McLaughlin and Jimmy Herring. Part of the John McLaughlin Farewell U.S. Tour, the performance at the Michigan Theater consisted of three sets.
Jimmy Herring and The Invisible Whip was the opening act, in which the guitarist played a variety of songs accompanied by musicians in the keyboard, drums and bass. John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension followed in a similar manner, with McLaughlin playing songs of his choosing accompanied by the band.
The finale the guitarists collaborating on exciting jams, in which they played Mahavishnu Orchestra classics. This jazz-rock fusion style pioneered by Mahavishnu brought forth a calm but lively atmosphere. It showcased the talents of both guitarists while letting McLaughlin backtrack to his early works from the ’70s and ’80s.
Mahavishnu songs were crowd pleasers, but the electricity and love for this genre of music was especially felt during McLaughlin’s interpretation of “El Hombre Que Sabía,” a song he dedicated to his collaborator and longtime friend Paco de Lucía. McLaughlin explained that he had co-created the song with Paco, but Paco passed before the project was released, so McLaughlin reached to heaven and played it as a token of appreciation. After this heartfelt dedication, the chitchat in the crowd fell to an instant silence and remained this way until the end of the song, when applause filled every corner of the theatre.
During the performance, the air in the Michigan Theater was filled with nostalgia, applause and happy cries of admiration. Excitement was oozing from the floor as audience members struggled to stay in their seats during the finale. It was clear that the people who sat in the Michigan Theater that evening were Mahavishnu amateurs and John McLaughlin lovers. Interpretations of the music were shared among the crowd, as well as a longing for a seemingly impossible reunion of the group.
From beginning to end, Meeting of the Spirits: Music of Mahavishnu Orchestra was a head bobbing, feet thumping, heartfelt homage to John McLaughlin’s incredible musical career. Accompanied by his band members, his tour partner Jimmy Herring and an audience full of his biggest fans, John McLaughlin was able to give a stunning farewell performance to Ann Arbor residents and University students of all ages.