Of Allan Holdsworth’s two live albums, this one for some reason didn’t make it into the 2017 12-CD Allan Holdsworth box set, but that doesn’t make this entry any less worthy (Holdsworthy?) of the attention of Holdsworth and jazz/rock fusion guitar fans.
Although this is Holdsworth’s first live album, the performance on it actually comes 12 years after the 1990 gig documented on the 2003 release, Then! So, taken together, both albums provide a good comparison of two Holdsworth shows in Tokyo, Japan, over a decade apart – first when Holdsworth was 44 and then when he was 56.
In contrast to the fiery, energetic, and hard-rocking 1990 concert, the 2002 set is laid back, relaxed, and softer sounding. However, the more mellow nature by no means means that Holdsworth is resting on his laurels. While the music is more jazz-oriented, Holdsworth’s hands and fingers (and highly advanced intellect, no doubt) are as busy as ever, working those frets frenetically and frantically like nobody’s business but nevertheless making it seem effortless and easy breezy.
Ably assisting the maestro onstage are bassist Jimmy Johnson and drummer Chad Wackerman (Frank Zappa, Andy Summers), each of whom holds his own while at the same time laying down dope rhythms and beats and giving Holdsworth a solid foundation over which to thread his six-string savvy. There is one bandleader and three stars here.
This recording deserves as much of a spot in one’s collection as any of the other discs in the box set and the two-CD retrospective, and Holdsworth fans and fusion guitar enthusiasts will be sweetly rewarded for making it so.