Not unlike some of the group's recordings, Return to Forever's concert at Constitution Hall last night was both dazzling and superficial--long on virtuosity and showmanship, short on ideas and restraint.
The last time keyboard player Chick Corea was in town, he unveiled a series of thoughtful improvisations and developed an uncommon rapport with his fellow musicians. This time, though, the emphasis was on speed and dexterity, and a playful one-upmanship prevailed.
Setting the mood were three new pieces by Corea. Like the not-too-subtle acoustic set that followed, they were characterized by crowd-pleasing, overblown solos, and fragmentary melodies that were constantly being shifted among Corea, bassist Stanley Clarke and guitarist Al DiMeola, often at an incredibly fast clip. Consequently, apart from the propulsive drive provided by drummer Lenny White, the music often lacked focus and direction and kept falling into tiresome and predictable patterns.
Perhaps now that all four members of the band are stars in their own right, the group feels an obligation to demonstrate its instrumental prowess. Unfortunately, these indulgent displays, as impressive as they were, often came at the expense of the music. It should be noted, however, that the capacity crowd responded to each and every tune with shouts of wild appreciation.