So, just who IS the lord-god-king of shredding whammy bar guitar?

This blog entry was originally published in 2014, and based on a 2009 interstate concert marathon!

Some of you know that fellow guitar geek Brother Vince and I saw Jeff Beck a few years back, then saw Adrian Belew on the following night in an unofficial electric guitar shredder smackdown.  Here are my notes from that trem3interstate two-nighter.

The criteria:

Most Guitar Effects Pedals on a Single Stage:

Advantage – Belew (the most in history!)

Attractive Young Woman on Bass with Chops Deluxe:

Advantage – Beck — but not by a landslide! Tal Wilkenfeld was great, but Julie Slick with Belew was doing some serious bassin’.

Best Drummer:

Advantage – Beck.  Hey, he had former Zappa drummer Vinnie Colaiuta. Say no more! But…. Julie Slick’s brother Eric still did some monster drumming for Belew!

Guitar Strangling Technique:

Advantage – Belew. Both these guys can contort a guitar to make it speak, but only Belew can tie it into a pretzel.

Better Music Venue:

Advantage – Belew. He played at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music, soon apparently to be renamed as “The Old Town School of Folk and electric-guitars-so-amped-and-effected-up-your-eardrums-will-melt Music”. But the place is so intimate that you could be in the balcony and reach out and dab the sweat from Belew’s balding pate. Which brings us to……

Best Rockin’ Guitarist ‘do:

Advantage – Neither. Belew at least goes au naturel, but Beck (at about age 62) cannot possibly have the full head of black hair he sports onstage. Maybe he and jailed former Illinois guv Rod Blagojevich have the same stylist?

Best Ability to go from shredding rock licks to tear-jerking ballad melody:

Advantage – Beck. His version of Stevie Wonder’s “Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers” really holds up. Plus, he did another ballad as an encore from the album “Guitar Shop” — the song title of which escapes me – that was just wrenchingly beautiful.

Best Version of a Beatle Tune:

Advantage – Both?? A tough one! Beck did “A Day in the Life”, Belew quoted “Within You and Without You”. Points all around. Interesting that they both dipped into the Sgt. Pepper’s well. Personally, I’m waiting for someone to dare to try a version of one of my fave Beatle’s tunes — Pepper’s “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite”. Belew probably has a couple of guitar pedals that would convey the required calliope and 3-ring circus music, though.

Guitar-God Stage Strut: 

Advantage – Beck. If only because I remember when Belew was with Zappa in ’78-ish and briefly wore a dress onstage. No amount of Belew’s attempted strutting will eradicate that image for me.

Look at Your Watch and Tell Me What Time is This Time Signature:

Advantage – Belew. Both performers definitely got out of the 4/4 box early and often with some 6/4 and occasional 9/8 stuff, but I think this goes to Belew.

Best Closing Tune:

Advantage – Even. Belew ended with Crimson’s “Thela Hun Gingeet”, Beck with “Peter Gunn”. Although I have to weigh in here: One of Beck’s influences is the late Roy Buchanan, who put out a disc on the Alligator label (can’t remember the disc title) that opened with “Peter Gunn”. Buchanan’s frightening solo on “Gunn” might be one of the top solos of all time. Not sure that the best of Beck – even with all of his chops – could equal the best of Buchanan’s work.

And, our judges have applied their statistical weighting to the above items, and are returning with an envelope. We know it had to be a squeaker of decision, but the 2009 winner of the lord-god-king of shredding whammy bar guitar is…….. Jeff Beck!

Thanks to all of you for playing. Now go see some live music!

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