NEW YORK, NY—Few guitar players can flow from heavy and thunderous shredding to soft and sweet sliding within seconds, using the utmost level of melody and never letting it diminish. There is absolutely nothing that Jeff Beck cannot play on his loyal Fender Stratocaster. You think Jimmy Page is a guitar god? Well, when inducting Beck into the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall Of Fame this year, he called himself and everyone else “mere mortals” in comparison.
April 10, 2009 was night two of Beck’s sold out shows at the fairly intimate Irving Plaza, and onlookers there to witness the magic included none other than publishing icon Jann Wenner (Rolling Stone Magazine), and drummer Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge), who played with Beck in Beck, Bogart, and Appice. That band may not have ended on a good note, but Appice still showed his respect and fascination for Beck by showing up.
Legendary “sidemen,” drummer Vinny Colaiuta and keyboardist Jason Rebello-who began playing with Sting in his late-20s-still reside in Beck’s band since 2006. Although I still find Terry Bozzio to be Beck’s best counterpart, Colaiuta seems to have beefed up his playing since ’06, making them flow better together. One thing he could refrain from is his fast overplaying at times, which would cut out the appearance of sloppiness and mold his sound to be an even better fit for Beck. Rebello’s sound is not always detected; it flows in and out, always at the right times and connecting to whatever it is that Beck is blowing us away with on guitar.
A friend of mine texted me from Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival in Chicago in 2007, after seeing a new female bass player perform with Beck, going on about how she appeared to be 16 but was one of the best bass players my friend had ever seen. It turned out she wasn’t 16, but the latter part of the statement holds true. Twenty-three-year-old Aussie, Tal Wilkenfeld, has joined Beck on bass- which she has only been playing for about six years now-and is a new and astonishing addition. She is a true pro, always following Beck musically, knowing where he’s going, and when, while never withholding melody. Beck even jumped in during Wilkenfeld’s solo, playing the neck of her bass, as she playfully slapped his hand away after he made a mistake.
The “hardcore” rock ‘n’ rollers behind me uttered “You gotta be kidding me!” after Beck’s ingenious and infamous right-handed slide during the gorgeous “Angel,” which, although Beck makes it look like the easiest thing in the world, no other guitar player has yet to accomplish successfully.
Everyone screamed and whistled like 12-year-old boys and girls while Beck blew through “Beck’s Bolero,” his cover of “A Day In The Life,” which is a tribute to his buddy George Martin, “Cause We Ended As Lovers,” “Nadia,” and a slew of others. The set-list was very similar to the prior night’s show, which was just as superb.
“The Pump” is perhaps my favorite of his many masterpieces. It may be because as a youngster my father always played me his late bands’ tapes, before I knew who Beck was, which included an intense live cover of this very song. I’m not quite sure, but all I know is, when I hear it live, chills run down my spine.
The encore consisted of “Where Were You,” which will always cause the audience to go dead silent, “Scottish One,” and the Peter Gunn theme, which is a wonderful and fun addition.
Fans still fawn over Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, and all of the other dubbed “guitar legends.” They have followed their careers from the beginning, but somehow a good amount stopped following Beck after “Truth” and “Wired,” and that’s all they know him for. He was ahead of his time then, and is still the same today, always heavily progressing in his musicality and ideas. Guitar players, and fans of guitar players who missed the last half of his career -the best of his work-have a lot of catching up to do. Enjoy.