Scene: The Warfield Theater in downtown San Francisco[ul]One of the Grande Dames of the remaining concert venues in this great city, the Warfield harkens back to yesteryear with its gingerbread and cake frosting decor. The exchange of movie hall seating for tables and chairs in the downstairs make this one of the few places where a show can be viewed in comfort. A full bar and reasonably priced food round out the virtues of this fine house.[/ul]After the usual infuriation of navigating a maze of one way streets looking for parking, we searched in vain for a decent restaurant. My friend’s old army injury prevented us from following all the good advice I received from the SD boards and instead we pulled up lame with a very lousy coffee shop for dinner.
After that forgettable dining episode, we sauntered down to the theater and found no one to be in line yet. Next door was Cafe.com so we went online and surfed for another hour until the queue finally started to form. One hour before the show we got into line with the other thirty people and discussed music with some of our fellow concert goers.
When the doors opened we found, to our dismay, that they had let in the will-call ticket holders along with those who had purchased in advance. I made a mad dash and managed to snag a center table with some of the best sight lines in the house and perfect stereo balancing for the sound.
The opening act was a Wisconsin yooper by the name of Willie Porter. Now, opening a hard rock show with someone on a solo acoustic guitar is never a good idea, but this lamewad was straight off of the coffee house circuit. Any of you cheeseheads ever heard of this poor excuse for an opener? Five songs later this mumbler was booed off of the stage by the house.
A half hour later Jeff Beck took the stage and launched into songs from his new album “Who Else!”. His third song, “Brush with the Blues” was a total show stopper. All technical brilliance was completely overshadowed by the heart wrenchingly beautiful phrasing of his guitar playing. Both my friend and I could feel the hair on our necks raising as a chill went through our bones. The song was spectacular in so many ways. Having never seen Beck before, my friend finally began to understand why I was so emphatic about attending the show.
Of course, I could see none of what was going on because of a group of three very tall jerks who decided to stand from the very beginning of the show. Other people tossed coins at their heads and they still didn’t get the hint. Ushers were sicced on them to no avail. Finally, about half way through the show a manager approached them and I was given my cue by a fellow attendee. I raced down to back up the manager and informed these dip sticks that they were ruining the concert for dozens of others behind them. Something managed to get through to them and finally an unobstructed view was available. It was the first time I had ever been forced to confront someone about such rude behavior in my life. After several forgettable tracks the band launched into “Led Boots”, a classic off of the “Blow by Blow” album.
A real treat throughout the show was the rhythm guitarist. Her name was Jennifer Batten (sp?). Trained by resident Bay Area genius, Tony McAlpine, she had a style that was crisp and clean. Her lightning fast fretwork made a perfect foil for Beck’s astonishing abilities. She held her own admirably on “Led Boots”, carrying the ripping main line perfectly. But the best was yet to come.
As the piece de resistance, Jeff Beck pulled out all of the stops and performed a flawless instrumental cover of the Beatle’s song “A Day In The Life” from the Sergeant Pepper’s album. Crafting all of the vocal and symphonic expressions on his guitar alone, this modern master explicitly evoked every nuance of the song with faithful clarity. His solos roared out of the gate and yet always managed to effortlessly ease back into the traditional melody line. It was a stroke of genius and all who watched stood in awe as he spun this epic yarn into golden notes that floated over the audience.
While I would have preferred more of his older work and not all of the pieces struck me as deeply as I might have wished, when Beck hits his stride there is no denying that this man has complete control over his instrument and bends it to his will. From the first time back in the early 1970’s, that I listened to his debut album “Truth” with a fledgling Rod Stewart backing on vocals, I knew that I would forever be a fan. Beck’s musical stylings have always been an inspiration for me as an electric guitarist. I have few living idols, especially in the music world, but this man is one of them. His ability to make the music soar to stellar heights wins over all who see him perform.
A final note on what makes me admire this artist so much is the near total absence of any posing or elements of glamour that so many groups rely upon. Like another of my favorite artists, Eric Johnson (of Austin, Texas), Jeff Beck is all business once he takes the stage. Two solid hours of nonstop performance was the upshot and when he got down to business the results were nothing short of spectacular. In one sentence, he is a living legend and earns the title on a regular basis.
Has anyone else seen him on this tour? Feel free to post any tales of your own concert experiences with this great artist. I will post some of my impressions from other events he has played. Feel free to list your favorite songs by him and albums of his that you would recommend.