The Archive.

Updated June 2021

Mahavishnu Orchestra 7-20-74.
Fortunately an audience tape of this performance exists , with quality ranging from poor to very good- mainly due to wind drift. Most of it is very listenable ,  although it is incomplete- 90 mins.The total show ran for 100 min.

Set list

Wings of Karma                  19'
Sanctuary                            12'05
Vision is a Naked Sword    30'
band members introduced    2'
Hymn to Him                      38'

Thanks to David Graham for the set list.

The line up of the band was also probably identical to Apocalypse - which was


  • John McLaughlin -electric guitar
  • Jean-Luc Ponty -electric violin
  • Gayle Moran -keyboards
  • Ralphe Armstrong - electric bass
  • Michael Walden- drums
  • Carol Shive - violin
  • Marsha Westbrook -viola
  • Philip Hirschi - cello
  • Steve Frankewicz
  • with the addition of Bob Knapp -trumpet , flugelhorn, flute- (featured on Hymn to Him)
  • Steven Kindler -violin 

A DVD of this band playing at Montreux 1974 is available and well worth purchasing as it features some songs played at Knebworth.

Photograph courtesy of Bazza.

To view a close up of the band click the main photo

 My review of the Mahavishnu Orchestra set , from memory and the audience tape

   The set began quietly with a slow build-up of strings, drums and guitar , with  McLaughlin then taking off with a lengthy solo featuring  immensely fast flurries of notes, punctuated with slow , thoughtful passages  and interwoven with occasional phrases played by Ponty and echoed by the strings . The whole propelled along with churning staccato drum work , it  built up to huge peaks, dropped down into peaceful valleys, than roared  back up to the heights once more. This opening medley, some 20 minutes long, created a brilliant beginning to the set and this was then followed by the epic Ponty /McLaughlin  workout which lasted for an age and flowed onto the second side of the tape , where Ponty just blew everything away for about five minutes, playing impossibly fast and high- the tone of his violin seeming to cut right though to the cerebral cortex -and a gradually developing bass line pushed the music faster and faster until the jam was all consumingly epic in its scope !. If this had been the end of the track Ponty would have gotten a huge encore, but  once again the pace was dropped to a crawl by the strings,which were discordant and grating. Then McLaughlin began another solo, this time using a weird tone to his guitar which reminded me of a cross between a marimba and a electronic bee. This went on for perhaps 10 minutes and then the strings dropped in again with a superb ascerbic theme, one of those typically ever ascending Mahavishnu trademarks which pulled out all the stops. When the track came to an end , it had been about 40 minutes since the number had begun .

    The next track was Hymn to Him which featured an excellent keyboard solo and then the band  moved into another unknown track, during which bass player Ralphe Armstrong got to strut his stuff for a minute or two and then, unfortunately , the tape that I have cuts.

   We then got the band intros from McLaughlin but unfortunately this is somewhat garbled on the tape.  By this time 60 or so minutes had passed and the band had only paused once .This was difficult music , no catchy tunes, no vocals , no overt  crowd appeal with scantily clad chick singers or leather trousered groin splitting guitarists- just top quality playing which was totally original and inspired in its concept and which made some big demands of its listeners.


© Nigel Barton

    McLaughlin's always unique guitar sound was largely a highlight of this show, but this was not by any means just a vehicle for him to show off his prowess as an axe man, anything but.  This bands music echoed its leaders  spiritual leanings , always searching , striving to reach for a numinous , mystical state and often succeeding, but which was also in turns funky and  powerful - rarely have I come across a better performance at a festival. There was very solid applause at the end of this set, which was great , considering the lack of commerciality of the entire show .

© Nigel Barton

© Frits Niemeijer

© Frits Niemeijer

Still taken from a few seconds of 8mm footage of the Mahavishnu Orchestras set , Ponty soloing .© Geoff Clout.


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Knebworth Concerts 1974-86


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