Bits of smooth guitar completely devoid of harsh gain reminded the audience of when people didn’t mess with the sound of guitars because they didn’t know how. He backed these sounds with electric samples that used to take a range of instruments and several people to create. His strong, guitar-filled climaxes made it hard to believe there was only one of him. Chords flowed into riffs that, so that, at times it seemed reasonable to believe there was another guitarist on stage with him. That being said, the audience was reminded all too often that it was a one- man show. At moments other than the climax, Beam strummed his guitar without conviction. His already timid and breathy voice was not loud enough, making it nearly impossible to hear any lyrics. Although some songs had backing samples, those that didn’t were noticeably hollow. In addition, he is completely unexciting to watch on stage. Though it may seem trivial, his lack of movement leaves the audience wondering why they should be into the music if he isn’t. All these things combined dotted the concert with moments of shallowness.
In particular, his final song, “Whispering Poison In His Ear,” suffered without the bass that backs the recorded version. In its absence, the song seemed empty, almost incomplete. Unintentionally adding to this feeling, Beam ended the song in an awkwardly stark way, leaving the concert to finish the same way.
Overall, however, the show was good. Beam sets a unique atmosphere that he fits well. And although he is not very exciting to watch while he’s on stage, it may be that he wants the audience to focus on the music and what it creates, not on who is creating it.
Beam had a range of tools to help the audience reach this mentality. Most striking were his visuals, created by his friend Greg Kowalski. Each song had a unique, vibrantly colorful visual effect. Some were frantic lines scratched across the screen, others were blobs that squeezed into and separated from each other. All of the visuals came were the result of everything from fishing wire to a mangled slinky being danced over a box with a camera and strobe light inside of it. What resulted was a messy rainbow reminiscent of the watercolors on an overhead projector of the sixties, but clearly a part of the digital age. Jeff Beam puts on a show that doesn’t take the audience to the sixties, it takes the sixties to the audience.