BX3 (Stu Hamm, Billy Sheehan & Jeff Berlin) @ Cafe Du Nord (1/24/07)

Kevin Keating

The bass guitar answer to Steve Vai, Joe Satriani & Eric Johnson's popular guitar "G3" concert tour came through San Franciso the other night and the trio of critically acclaimed bassists played for a half-full crowd at the very small Cafe Du Nord. I may be ashamed to admit this, but my familiarity with the trio was limited to Stu Hamm, who I had the opportunity to see perform at a bass guitar clinic at a small music shop near my hometown over 15 years ago.

As for the other two, I didn't know what to expect besides my assumption that they'd both be technically very talented bass guitarists by their sheer association with Stu Hamm.

But little did I expect that I'd be more impressed with the nights opener (Jeff Berlin) than the other two! Berlin was easily more focused on jazz foundations during his performance and challenged the mostly-musician audience to push themselves with using only the 4-strings on a standard bass guitar. At times in between songs, Berlin joked that he was giving a clinic than actually performing a concert; and the one comment he made which stuck at the time was something like 'concentrate on your performance at the moment, but always focus on your next gig' -- what would you do differently? How could you improve? And practice, practice, practice. Overall, Berlin's transposed version of Eric Clapton's 'Tears In Heaven' was the most memorable for me.

After nearly a 60 minute set, Stu Hamm took the stage with a mix of classical, jazz and rock infused playing styles that at times almost lulled the crowd to sleep. Having been the most familiar with Hamm, I was first surprised to see Hamm play in the middle of the 3-performace set (and not close it), and I was also surprised to see a higher number of people less interested in Hamm compared to Berlin and Billy Sheehan, the closer of the night. I've alway been impressed with Hamm's technique of playing the bass guitar's neck with both hands, plus the more traditional slap-style is always kick-ass too. But he didn't play 'Peanuts' last night!?!

Billy Sheehan took over to close the night and although he was technically impressive, he had a bit too much 80's rock coming through in his performance and I was quickly bored... Plus, it was getting late in the night, and with a 30 minute drive home, we ended up cutting the show a bit short and only giving Billy 20 minutes or so before we took off.

Overall, the $30 ticket price was a bit steep, but the unexpectedly good performance from Jeff Berlin and the opportunity to see Stu Hamm play again after the last time 15 years ago made up for ticket cost.

Check 'em out if they swing through your local city, but don't go out of your way to track them down.

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