Joe Zawinul's head, covered in his trademark colorful skullcap, played first chair at the Beverly Theatre Friday night, while his heart was somewhere way back in the section. And music without heart often isn't music at all.
Playing his bank of keyboards unaccompanied, the leader of Weather Report offered a mishmash of sounds rather than unified pieces. On most numbers, he'd establish a repeating rhythmic pattern, on top of which he'd play bleeps, blips, thick organ-like chords, ear-grating shrieks, fast and free bebop lines and indecipherable vocal phrasings. It was disconcerting stuff lacking emotion and direction.
In a very few instances, such as "Peace" from his recent "Dialects" LP, the flamboyant keyboardist injected welcome warmth. But ultimately, Zawinul's mental meanderings proved too insubstantial to hold his listeners' attention: About half the house departed during the course of the show.