John McLaughlin at Vic Theatre, Chicago – live review

John McLaughlin is a legend: a man Jeff Beck calls the best guitarist ever, a man who gave Jimmy Page guitar lessons as a teenager, a man who played with Miles Davis.

live shot
(Image: © Katja Ogrin)

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At 75, he is now doing his last tour in the United States, and playing music from his Mahavishnu Orchestra days, making this a special event.

The night starts with the groovin’ track Miles Beyond, and it’s clear he can still fly up and down the neck of his guitar. not much talking is done after a cordial introduction: it’s all about the music.

The maestro is accompanied by very special guests. Guitarist Jimmy Herring (widespread Panic) plays some rhythm and also delivers worthy leads. Gary Husband (allan Holdsworth Band) is known as a drummer, but here he channels his inner Jan Hammer and goes to town on keyboards.

Tonight every emotion under the sun is displayed by Mclaughlin. From joy to slight fatigue to seriousness, Mclaughlin is an open book for the audience: vulnerable yet technically astounding. when he brings out his famous double neck guitar, the crowd hoot and holler, and become even more rowdy once he has a shred session on said guitar.

The packed venue gives the great man multiple standing ovations during his set. The Mahavishnu music is its own entity, and makes one go, “what the hell is this!?” (in a good way.) Mclaughlin once said his guitar is part of his body, and after viewing him play the cryptic jam Meeting Of The Spirits, everyone understands what he means. The notes he plays come straight from his soul, allowing the audience to feel what he’s feeling. “How does he do it?” we keep asking ourselves. not only because of his age, but because of how hard playing this music is: only a remarkable talent can accomplish some of the hard licks played during The Dance Of The Maya and Be Happy.

The show lasts over two hours, giving the audience a big fill and a huge thrill. Yet the crowd are clearly desperate for a lot more of Mclaughlin: no one wants to leave at the end.

This concert will forever be ingrained in the memory. a man who holds rock royalty status and could have easily retired years ago is giving younger generations a final chance to see him in the flesh, and it’s astonishing.