Live at the Tower Theater, Philly, PA
For the 55-year-old Jeff Beck time seems to have stood still. His showy metallic style has aged well with the passing years since last seen opening for Santana, yet his presentation is virtually the same. Standing central in the stage, dressed in black, Beck simply takes care of business allowing only the guitar to speak.
Confused these days with the more hip alternative BECK Jeff is himself a bit of an eccentric relic. With nearly 40 years of music making he still cant be pigeon-toed into a genre and continues to suffer from a real identity crisis.
The only thing consistent about Becks music is change. In the Yardbirds, though he filled Claptons shoes well, his inability to work with Jimmy Page saw to his exit. His solo career entangled pre-Stones, Faces guitarist, Ronnie Wood and pre-Faces singer Rod Stewart but only for two highly acclaimed records. Next it was a row with ex-Vanilla Fudge-men forming Beck Bogert Appice. This too was short- lived before Beck went solo. Blow By Blow and Wired changed the guitarists direction again and exalted him to demi-God status. But with each came an all new Beck.
So why should it be any different with Becks new offspring, Who Else? an album almost completely written by Becks keyboardist, Tony Hymas. Of the albums eleven tracks six were performed to the sold-out Philadelphia crowd with none other than Jennifer Batten of Michael Jackson fame as rhythm and side guitarist. Completing the touring line-up were Randy Hope Taylor on bass and Steve Alexander on drums also featured on the CD.
The chemistry between Beck and Batten was mixture of melancholy and muscle. During Blast From The East , one of the new numbers, Batten looked ready to pounce but held back while Beck threw out notes like a salt shaker. Then, with Beatles cover A Day In The Life Batten laid back as gentle as silk creating a seductive elegance which had Beck arranging the songs melody around her.
Radio single What Mama Said kicked the show off and was soon followed by 'Psycho Sam', 'Brush With The Blues' and 'Space For The Poppa'. It was almost as if hed plopped on the CD and mimicked the tracking list. Songs from 1989s Guitar Shop album were the only other real contenders for the set. Savoy, Where Were You and Big Block all came from the 89 release with Slingshot being the surprise encore.
For the die-hard fans there was the occasional dip into the oldies with 'The Pump' and 'Led Boots' as well as a clever new and old mix of 'Even Odds' and 'U-Never'. Becks mid-set 'Freeway Jam' rendition was an open invitation into freeform improvisation showcasing his cast of tight-knit musicians.
As a traveling band, Becks ensemble are as top notch as the day they stepped out of the studio. The live setting does allow room to breathe, but due in part to a pre-recorded DAT of audio samples, their craft is synchronized to perfection. Jeff Beck has never been one to shake it up as a stage performer. His slight movements and occasional crouch are as synonymous as his dark flop mop and white strat. Rarely, if ever will he approach the mic and if so, will only introduce the band or whisper Thank You. However, as a technical guitarist he is superb and well worth the four year wait.