music: Jeff Beck grinds cats

I watched Jeff Beck: Performing this Week… Live at Ronnie Scott’s, and I’m hugely impressed but not quite thrilled. The man doesn’t play guitar, he plays Stratocaster; the whammy bar and volume knob are integral to his right hand technique and it’s great to watch.

Vinnie Colauita is phenomenal on the drums and 21 year-old Tal Wilkenfeld is impressive, but they don’t quite jell. I would love to hear the band with Pino Palladino on bass.

Beck plays a lot of jazz-rock fusion at various tempos, including a tune from John McLaughlin, the master of it (Mahavishnu Orchestra’s drummer Billy Cobham vs. Colauita, tough call). Throughout he wills an angry screaming tone out of his guitar but ultimately I find it wearying. Eric Clapton comes out and you realize there’s no jangle in Beck’s playing.

It’s cool to see where Steve Howe got so many of his ideas. Many of the guitar parts on Relayer sound so similar, screaming yawl vs. clattering wail, tough call but Howe is a far better composer and musician. Beck is riff-tastic but almost funk-free (compare with the awesome John Mayer Trio).

Standouts: Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers (with a fine bass solo) and Nadia.

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