The sixth in a series of reports on Miles’s live gigs from 1981-1991 that I attended or have seen on video.
Venue: Royal Festival Hall, London
Date: 20th July 1985
My third Miles concert and for me, one of the most unforgettable. Looking back, it’s clear that Miles was close to his peak in 1985/86 in terms of health, vitality and technique. Miles admitted that when he returned to playing music in the 1980s, it took him a couple of years to get his chops back, not to mention his confidence. His health also suffered badly in the first few years and he even had oxygen backstage for some of his early concerts. But by the time 1985 arrived, Miles was back on form and what’s more, he had one of the best bands of the era.
This concert was the second of two held that day and part of the JVC/Capital Radio Jazz Festival, one of the highlights of the jazz calendar. Miles had played at the concert the previous year and I managed to get tickets for the matinee performance (see my gig report here) This year, I was lucky to get tickets for the evening performance and boy, was I and the rest of the audience in for a treat. In fact, Miles played for almost two hours in the afternoon concert, a clear sign that he was in top form, because the band also played for more than two hours in the evening concert!
Miles’s band consisted of him (on trumpet and keyboards); John Scofield, Bob Berg, Robert Irving III, Darryl Jones, Vince Wilburn Jr and Steve Thornton. The only difference between the previous band that visited the UK was the replacement of drummer Al Foster with Miles’s nephew Vince Wiblurn Jr. As usual, the band kicked off with the storming opener “One Phone Call/Street Scenes.” In fact, the concert was dominated by uptempo numbers including, “Maze,” “Katia,” “Hopscotch,” You’re Under Arrest,” and the encore “Decoy.” The latter was a barnstorming version in which Berg and Scofield took it in turns, with each solo inspiring the other play with even more powerful and intensity.
Miles and Darryl Jones
Miles was in good lip and played a lot of open horn. The audience also got to hear quite a bit of material from the forthcoming You’re Under Arrest Album, including “Time After Time,” Human Nature” (almost the same as the album version – it would be a few months before the revised version, which featured a saxophone or guitar soloist played over the one-chord “Milestones” vamp), an uptempo “Something’s On Your Mind,” the title track and the medley “Then There Were None.” Bob Berg played superbly throughout the evening and especially during “Ms. Morrisine” and “Decoy” (on tenor sax) and on “Code MD” (soprano). And what can you say about John Scofield? Whatever the style – blues, jazz, rock, funk, he had the all the answers.
I’ve always loved Darryl Jones’s bass work and on numbers such as “Maze,” “Hopscotch” and “Decoy” his bass lines really underpinned the music. Keyboardist Robert Irving III got few chances to shime, but his synthesiser lines, stabs and riffs added lots of colour and atmosphere to the sound. Vince Wilburn Jr was like a drum machine, playing virtually non-stop for two hours, while Steve Thornton provided good support on percussion. But the undoubted star was Miles, whose playing not only reached your ears and your heart, but he seemed to be at ease with the world, acknowledging the crowd, smiling at his band – you got the feeling he was pleased to be on-stage. And for the audience, it was an unforgettable evening. Part of the 1985 concert was broadcast on Capital Radio, but it’s a shame that the concert was never filmed and it’s a crime that, after his 1982 London concert, no Miles performance would ever again be filmed in the UK.
If you have any memories of Miles’s gigs from 1981-1991, why don’t you tell us about it?! All reports will be put online for other Miles fans to share. Email