Cliff Beach

Live Review: Cliff Beach at Harvelle's in Santa Monica, CA

Material: Cliff Beach has been sliding and gliding on live stages for nearly two decades. Ultimately, he devoted his songwriting and musicality to the funk. The seven musicians who accompany Cliff Beach on stage for his live shows immediately kick up comparisons to bands like Redbone and Robert Randolph & The Family Band. Their charisma is essential to the live presentation of songs like “Joy,” an original track with chord progressions that are similar to “Higher Ground” by Stevie Wonder.

Musicianship: As Beach slowly began to establish himself as a live performer in the party scene of Washington DC, he developed a sound rooted in GoGo music, a sub-genre of funk that is native to his hometown. From his boisterous ad-libs to the execution of live instrumentation, there are several nods to the originator of funk, James Brown, throughout songs like “Confident.” But the pulse of this songwriter’s music is fully illustrated by his band. They are the life of the party. Beach’s ensemble define his live shows with a lively horn section, multiple percussionists, a bass player and a lead guitarist.

Performance: Beach’s live show at Harvelle’s featured contributions from all seven musicians. Evan Mackey, Rubén Salinas and Sam Williams made for an excellent horn section. They were positioned on the dance floor, directly in front of the stage. And they made their enjoyable presence felt during the live rendition of a funk rock song called “Movin’ On.” But not to be outdone, the guitar and bass tandem of Luis Narino and Alex Romero made all of the difference in the world during Beach’s cover of a classic pop song by Michael Jackson called “The Way You Make Me Feel.” They added a blues rock feel that was highlighted by the smooth drum fills of the percussionists Brandon Peterson and Williams Haddad.

Summary: The most noteworthy aspect of this live show was Cliff Beach’s ability to rearrange the music from cover songs like “Crazy” (a composition originally recorded by Gnarls Barkley). His live version of this track featured several components of jazz and big band music from the backup musicians. As the band kept the party going at Harvelle’s, Beach stepped away from his keyboard and began to dance while he sang his version of a Bill Withers song, “Who Is He (And What Is He To You).” It was an appropriate way to round up his set. On this night the old adage from James Brown held true. When you’re on stage with a full band, it’s always best to: Let the funk flow!

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Players: Cliff Beach, lead vocals, keyboard; Luis Narino, guitar, backup vocals; Alex Romero, bass guitar; Evan Mackey, trombone; Rubén Salinas, baritone saxophone; Sam Williams, tenor saxophone; William Haddad, percussion; Brandon Peterson, drums