Lots of people can play guitar fast. Jeff Beck can too. What sets him apart from the pack is his additional ability to coax a seemingly endless variety of sounds from his guitar. Thursday night, Beck stuck with just one blond Stratocaster all night and made many more interesting and delightful sounds from it than those guitarists who pick up a new ax for every song.
The array of sounds was matched by the eclectic musical styles. While the largest part of the show dwelt in the confluence of 70s progressive rock, jazz and heavy metal, the band journeyed into blues, soul, straight-ahead jazz, country and even a mid-20th century show tune.
The bulk of the show was Jeff with bass, drums and keyboards, but his chick singer, Beth Hart made occasional appearances to forcefully belt out a couple tunes, add some cheesecake and then retire for a while before reappearing. Her first time out, she sang Willie Dixon’s You Shook Me with some Robert Plant hair flipping. Then she did Walk You Out in the Morning Dew. Later she came out and sang Sam Cooke’s A Change is Gonna Come followed by I Ain’t Superstitious. For the first encore, she sang Goin’ Down and I Got the Feeling.
In between the vocals, it was pure Beck. It’s hard to overstate just how remarkable his version of A Day in the Life really was. The middle McCartney part (“Woke up, got out of bed…”) was completely reworked. In fact, it was the anti-McCartney. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, a tune by one of the true jazz greats, Charles Mingus was another highlight. After playing with the theme for a while, Beck launched the tune into another dimension. The tunes from Blow by Blow and Wired definitely took me back to my college days when that stuff was pretty popular.
At 62 Beck was looking good. He still maintains that classic British invasion rock star haircut a la Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood. He wore a dark brown vest over a white tank top with some tastefully faded jeans. Next to vocalist Hart, he didn’t quite look like her grandfather even though the age difference would make it possible. The only chink in the illusion was when he turned around, you could see a tiny bald spot on the back of his head about the size of a quarter. I’d think a black magic marker could have taken care of that.
He played his Strat through a double stack of Marshall amps. The visual was great: there’s the guy with the classic haircut, standing in front of the stack of Marshalls giving the whammy bar a major workout. 70s nirvana!
Besides those 70s visual flashbacks and watching Hart prance around the stage, the other fun thing to watch was the way Beck played, massaged, caressed and otherwise manipulated his guitar. He was up and down the neck. With both hands. He’d put his left hand over the top of the neck. He used all the fingers of his right hand and rarely a pick. It all worked great.