I had the privilege of seeing Jeff Beck last night in the Philly venue called the Electric Factory.  This is the second incarnation of the Electric Factory in Philly, as far as I know.  I have no idea what the original looked like but this one is pretty much a dump.  It’s a warehouse that wants to have a bar in it, plus a second floor that’s mostly bar.

If you want handicapped access, you had better call way in advance and bring your own seat.  It’s all standing-only, save for a few seats upstairs.  The people who work the doors are very polite and friendly, immediately offering my wife a seat, as she travels with a cane sometimes.  When they got there, all twelve chairs were occupied.

Actually, most of the people who work there are friendly.  When some lady passed out, my wife called 911 and some idiot with a SECURITY jacket asked her why she was `causing trouble’ [by calling 911].  I don’t know if she had to extract the cane from his nether regions but it couldn’t have been pleasant.

But I digress (immediately).

We got through the parking matrix relatively unscathed, keeping in mind that old Philly adage, `You can’t get there from here.‘  I stood on the side with the most Marshall amps, as I somehow felt that was the right place to be for Jeff Beck.

The opener was a young guy called Davey Knowles, from the Isle of Man.  You have to feel sorry for Davey.  You have to feel sorry for anyone who has to open for someone of this magnitude.  Davey truly held his own.  Apparently he’s used to large amps but his set was entirely acoustic.  He’s a good songwriter and more than a competent guitar player, ripping off a few really tasty riffs here and there, to the delight of the assembled masses.

The show was a sellout, btw.

It took forever but finally Jeff appeared.  He opened with his reworked version of Beck’s Bolero, which had lots of power but failed, largely due to a missing acoustic guitar or rhythm guitar of any sort.  The crowd still ate it up.

The show was marred by truly horrific sound.  I don’t know if we were getting too much stage volume but for most of the show, it wasn’t sonically apparent that he had a keyboard player.  You could feel the drums and hear Jeff just fine but there was very little keyboard and the bass was more feel than tone.

Beck is touring with the folks he’s been using for a while now: Vinny Coliauta on drums, Jason Rebello on keys, and Tal Wilkenfeld on bass.  I know Vinny from Frank Zappa and he was spectacular this time out.  He was more than tremendously solid, taking off here and there on extended romps and always exactly where he should be.  His tone wasn’t lacking at all.

Tal Wilkenfeld (I hope I spelled these names correctly) raised a hell of a lot of notice by simple being mid-twenties and female.  It’s not what you normally see onstage.  She’s a petite lady, almost dwarfed by her own bass.  She was playing something that looked a lot like a J-Bass but with a slightly altered headstock.  I wasn’t close enough to notice but I’m pretty sure it was fretless, as she was constantly applying some wide vibrato to her notes.  I have seen a lot of her on video with Jeff but could never get a feel for how talented she was.  Last night all potential doubts were laid to rest.  The lady can play.  She’s a perfect foil for Jeff and completely into what she’s doing.  No notes were missed.  She even doubled some of Jeff’s lines.

The keyboards were another story entirely.  All I’ve seen and heard of Jason Rebello has been positive.  Last night was a different story.  The man is obviously good at what he does but more than likely due to horrible sound, he got lost for most of the night.  When he did pop in, he was some combination of too loud and too, for lack of better term, brash.  His tones  did not seem to blend well, as if they would probably work in many other bands, just not this one.  He was playing through two Korg units and there was a Mac laptop in view (sissy).

Jeff was playing his yellowish Strat with a rosewood board through a pair of Marshall half stacks.  There were two large 4-input heads running with two small box heads on top for show.  There was an additional stack of something that I did not recognize, with a pair of what looked like 2×12″ cabs [these were confirmed as Channing amps by Mr. Channing].  His tone was absolutely Marshall and absolutely Jeff Beck.  The only new goodies were a flanger (Blue Wind) and some sort of Leslie/phaser he used here and there.

How do you describe a concert with no words spoken except for Thank You and Goodnight?  I’m really bad with song names so that makes this process even sillier.  Here are some of the tunes:

  • A Day in the Life
  • Blue Wind
  • Savoy
  • Big Block
  • Space Boogie
  • Cause We Ended as Lovers
  • Led Boots
  • Behind the Veil
  • Angel (Footsteps)
  • The Pump
  • Goodbye Port Pie Hat (intro)
  • the slow whammy-torturing tune from Guitar Shop

The encore was some song I’ve never heard, which segued into the Peter Gunn Theme, which was pretty funny.

Tal played a few solos, the best of which happened when she came out front.  Jeff walked over to her and started `helping’ her.  She was soloing with many notes up top while Jeff played one or two notes on the low end as a rhythm.  The went into Freeway Jam with just the two of them on the bass.  I only wish I had video of this.  It was True Show Business.

Noticing a ton of camera phones, I raised my Treo in hopes of getting at least one decent picture.  Yeah, f-ing right. That phone could not take a decent picture in full daylight, no less in a dark club.  Fortunately it’s a great phone, which is why I have kept it for years.  I also tried recording a little of one song, which came out so horribly you can’t even tell what it is.  I’m terrified to review  the pictures I took for fear of not recognizing what I am looking at.

I don’t know if it was monitoring difficulties or just Jeff Beck but he kept doing that bit where he misses the first phrase and returns for the second repetition of it.  That aside, it was truly enjoyable.  That Grin<tm> was in evidence all night long.  It’s apparent the guy is having the time of his life.

Part of watching Jeff Beck is seeing him manipulate the controls.  Last night I watched him doing volume swells and pulling the bar up to pitch simultaneously, with one hand.  It was pure magic.

I just heard that Jeff will be touring later this year with some geezer called Clapton, presumably at a larger venue, with people and equipment capable of producing decent sound.

My nephew came along too.  He has never seen Jeff live but is a fan.  He said he was blown away – exceeding expectations.  My wife was also amazed.

The icing was a little help from my friends and family: my brother bought the ticket as a present and my nephew bought me a Jeff Beck hat.  It was a good night.

I smiled, which I don’t do often.

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P.S.  Tall people should be banned from standing-only concerts.  Of couse by tall people I mean anyone taller than me.