I was coming off a really shitty week of work and was looking forward to getting out of my apartment to see a concert. First time seeing Al Di Meola for his visit to Portland at Aladdin Theater which like most places is near my apartment. No indication there was an opening act but I figured it would be a good idea to show up early. My thought was Al would be punctual with the start time and he was. Unlike the last time I made it without getting caught by a train.
Tonight the venue was setup as a fully seated show. I headed towards the balcony to grab a spot. I wanted to be away from people if I could and the balcony has a good view of the stage. Tonight I got a seat in the first row all the way to the left. The floor was almost full with what I would call an older crowd. Like well into the AARP range of people. Many I’m sure have followed his career for a long time. Al even said he has been to Portland many times over many years.
The stage was a very simple setup for just three people. Al switched between two acoustic guitars to fit the song. I don’t remember the other band mates but they where both excellent. One was playing tabla the traditional drum from India and the other guy was on percussion. I don’t think you could call it a “drum” set. For example I couldn’t quite figure out the bass drum. It was what he was sitting on and he just kept smashing it in rhythm.
The show started off with a raucous as one guy wanted to give Al a huge. He was an old guy who got his wish and he jumped on stage to get his hug. Al seemed happy to do it as he referenced covid and not being able to tour for a while. He talked about the small gigs he was hosting at his house. The entire night was interlaced with stories from his long career which was really cool. I know him for Return to Forever and his early fusion jazz stuff, not so much his current stuff.
He told two stores that I thought where really good. One was how he got into Return to Forever. He took a bunch of drugs, I can’t remember what, and a friend recorded him playing guitar. That friend then gave the tape to Chick Corea who heard it, loved it and reached out to have him join the band. He was just a kid when this happened but his future was written that night.
Another good store was playing with Paco De Lucia for the first time. Al started to play flamenco and was enamored with Paco while in Spain. It worked out that Paco came to New York to record some music but when he arrived he was too nervous. Paco couldn’t play. Al knew someone that could get some cannabis which Paco smoked. That got him to relax. Then magic was made in the recording studio.
Al played two sets that night, each just an hour long. He was punctual and the show ended early which I appreciated. It was all acoustic and now as much jazz as I was hoping but his interaction with the crowd more than made up for it. It was a great night of music and some insight into how it all went down oh so many years ago. The beautiful weather walking home allowed me plenty of time to reflect on the show and Al’s journey through life.
Al Di Meola Tuesday, March 22nd 2022
3017 SE Milwaukie Ave, Portland, OR 97202
Set 1 starts at 8:03pm
- Milonga Del Angel
- Measurable part 2 of 3
- ? (Beatles cover)
- Tears of Hope
- Measurable part 1 of 3 (solo)
- Senor Mouse
Set over at 9:10pm
Set 2 starts at 9:33pm
- Strawberry Fields Forever (Beatles cover)
- Tripping Billies melody
House lights at 10:29pm