Monday, October 14, 2013

Jeff Beck AND Brian Wilson?

Hey - you got your Brian Wilson on my Jeff Beck.

Hey- you got your Jeff Beck on my Brian Wilson.

Like a bad old tv commercial, it started.  What genius put this roster together?  How could it possibly work, logistically?  What in the universe do the two acts have in common?  Does Surfin' USA require a rip-roaring lead?

I'll be honest - I stayed home last time Jeff Beck came around because I had seen his Les Paul tribute on disc but it wasn't what I wanted to see from Mr. Beck live.  We had no idea what to expect from this out-of-the-blue offering.  We also brought my nephew along, a budding shred-monster himself.

We were extremely worried at first, largely due to the nine dollar hotdog and Coke.  I know I sound like an Olde Pharte here but recently I have been charged twenty five dollars to park and five for a soda; this is patently ridiculous.

The Beck camp blew it on merchandising too: there was not a shred of product with his name on it that didn't also have Wilson's name.  El Becko seemed to appear as an afterthought, even on the twenty dollar coffee cups.

We were excited, having spent the better part of a mortgage payment on seats.  The excitement turned to disappointment when we got seated, as I was apparently on some form of advanced hallucinogenic when I ordered.  I remembered ordering first section; we got seated further back.  Fortunately there are no bad seats at the Tower Theater (David Bowie and Al DiMeola recorded live albums there).

Looking at the stage, we were trying to decide on whether to be excited or horrified: there was no separate stage setup for the two acts.  We were hoping this wasn't going to turn out to be some bizarre circus.

I am not a Beach Boys fan.  I don't dislike them either.  I figured they were price to pay to get to see Jeff Beck.  This went right out the window with the first song.  Brian and crew took the stage and sang an incredible tune a capella.  Never heard it before but it was spellbinding.  Many have made sport of the Beach Boys' failing vocals but there was not a sour note the whole evening.  Imagine the best Beach Boys cover band in the world, then put Brian Wilson and Al Jardine up in front of it and there you have it.

My wife slowly turned into a fan but kept shaking her head about what we must be doing to her nephew, who is younger than every one of their songs.  He came to watch The Master play, not watch a nostalgic surf act.  However, he did truly appreciate the show, even if he had never heard most of the songs.

There was a veritable city of musicians onstage.  At any time there were up to five guitars, three keyboards, drums, percussion and everybody sang  [Mike Love who?].  Brian Wilson was in fine form, regardless of his past or what you might have heard.

After an energetic set, they cleared the stage for Jeff Beck, keeping most of the instruments there for later.  Jeff and company hit the stage with a bang and his trademark grin.  The band consisted of a tall black drummer whose name escapes me, Rhonda Smith on bass, a tall lady on violin, Jeff and an additional guitarist(!) who turned out to be triggering keyboards with his guitar (like Jennifer Batten used to do).   Yes, I'm horrible with names.  Everyone was in top form.  Rhonda Smith is a monster on bass.

They did Stratus, Big Block, Where Were You, A Day in the Life, How High the Moon, Rollin and Tumblin, You Never Know and others.  He even whipped out a tear-jerker of a version of Little Wing.  I didn't think things were going to work with a violin and guitar-triggered keys but it all fell together well.

The most interesting part was when they called Brian Wilson and most of the band back.  They sang while Jeff segued from Goodbye Pork Pie Hat into Brush with the Blues.  It was absolutely staggering. It was like Jeff was playing the Beach Boys as an instrument.  All the harmonies were there, as if they were some giant sampling keyboard playing along with the band.

Although his sound was not as clear as Brian's, Jeff delivered in spades.  At the end, everybody played.  And sure enough, Surfin' USA got a rip-roaring lead.

Before the show started, when we were getting nervous, I said out loud that this didn't look good and I'd love to be happily surprised.  I was.  We were.  And my nephew heartily approved of his second Jeff Beck outing.

See this tour - you won't be disappointed.

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