When the curtain rose on Weather Report's concert at the Warner Theatre last night, standing center stage was saxophonist Wayne Shorter, clearly the beneficiary of recent personnel changes affecting the group. With the departure of bassist Jaco Pastorius, Shorter has come to play a more decisive role in the quintet's music, and the opportunity couldn't have come at a better time; he is currently playing at the peak of his powers.
Throughout the lengthy concert, Shorter contrasted fiercely aggressive solos that threatened to blow the bell off his tenor sax with tenderly seductive lyricism (on both tenor and soprano sax) that was as persuasive as it was compelling. Whenever the music called for a streak of passion, as it did often, he blew his heart out.
The dominant force behind the band's music, as always, was Joe Zawinul, who created a vast array of colors, textures, moods and effects on keyboards and synthesizer. Occasionally, Zawinul's penchant for electronic mimicry, quirky riffs and slowly building climaxes got the best of him, but mostly the music that poured from his fingers was vibrant and all-enveloping.
As for the new members--bassist Victor Bailey, drummer Omar Hakim and percussionist Jose Rossy--they may not be as flamboyantly funky as Pastorius and company, but they swing just as hard--sometimes ferociously so.