Live Review: BX3 Print
Thursday, 01 March 2007 07:22

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I normally don’t write concert reviews for Guitar Jam, but I just can’t help myself having seen one of the best shows in years. For those of you who didn’t catch the BX3 tour (the tour is over in a couple of days), you must put it on your “to do” list the next time they go out.

Assembled by Stu Hamm (Frank Gambale, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, etc.), BX3 boasts three of the best bass players in the history of earth. Stu is joined by legendary jazz bassist Jeff Berlin (John McLaughlin, Allan Holdsworth, Michael and Randy Brecker, etc.), and the god of rock and roll bass, Billy Sheehan (Talas, Mr. Big, David Lee Roth, Steve Vai, etc.).

As with the G3 tour, the lineup of Berlin, Hamm, and Sheehan each play a solo set and then join together for some reckless abandon. In my case, we got an extra treat right at the beginning of the show. Inspired by their proximity to the nation’s capitol, the three launched the show with their bass driven rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, with Sheehan doing an admirable job on vocals (not an easy song to sing).

Jeff Berlin opened with a great jazz influenced set. Jeff’s playing is so clean and precise it is astounding. The fact that he is a complete character and banters with the crowd made it even more enjoyable. The highlight of Jeff’s set for me was his rendition of Clapton’s Tears from Heaven. Any blues guitarist would have been in awe of the emotion in Jeff’s playing. I will long remember it as one of the best instrumentals I’ve heard.

Next up was Stu Hamm with his unique brand of hard driving, thumb popping, finger tapping, and melodic mind-blowing bass. I’ve seen Stu a bunch of times, but it was great to see him as the focus of the show. He’s unbelievable! Stu’s highlight was his jaw dropping arrangement of the Beatle’s Abbey Road intertwined with Beethoven’s Signature Movement of the Moonlight Sonata. I know that Stu is drug free, which makes me wonder even more about how the man could have possibly come up with this.

Finally, Billy Sheehan took the stage and just ripped everyone’s head clean off. His playing is so powerful and shred-like, but it remains very artistic. I’ve been a fan of Billy’s since I saw him play with Talas back in……well, let’s just say it was a while ago. In addition to playing Shy Boy (David Lee Roth), Billy took us Sheehan fans back to the Mr. Big days with a blistering version of Addicted to that Rush. He also did a killer version of Jeff Beck’s Led Boots.

Jgold01 The band was back up by two incredible musicians in their own right: guitarist Jude Gold (on left) and drummer John Mader. I could write a separate article on their performances alone for backing such different musicians as if they’ve been playing with each one for years.

After the individual sets, the three joined together on stage for four or five more tunes, and of course more jokes about each other and bass players in general. The coup de grace was the three playing and sharing vocals on Clapton’s Crossroads. Everyone walked out of the venue feeling exhausted from trying to absorb everything that was happening on stage, and they were all wide-eyed and talking about the amazing show we had just seen.

And that brings me to the best part – the venue. I caught the BX3 show in a very small venue named Jammin Java in Vienna, Virginia. I’m guessing there were about 150 or so patrons there and the place was full. Everyone had a great seat.

It was ironic that in the middle of writing this piece, John McGlasson’s piece “Industry Insider: What Does it Mean to be a Pro” was published. John nailed the thing that amazed me most. Here were arguably three of the best bassists to ever walk the planet, and they are playing these small venues, and visibly having a great time doing it. After the show, I had a chance to talk to their tour manager, Bob Snyder. As a guitar tech, I was hoping to speak with their tour tech to chat about what it was like touring with them. Bob just laughed at me: “It’s me, an assistant, and the band!” The guys are doing all of their own equipment hauling, stage setup, guitar maintenance, etc. The day that I saw them, we had 8 inches of snow fall and Bob was talking about their “fun” drive from Pittsburgh to Virginia, only to arrive and have to lug all of their gear thru six inches of slush. Each of these guys has played to stadium-sized audiences, yet here they were playing their hearts out for us and enjoying it like they were kids playing in public for the first time.

What does it mean to be a pro? Indeed, BX3 embodies professionalism and it starts with a love of what you do and a true appreciation for the people who are happy to pay to watch you do it.