MONTCLAIR, NJ—Every artist has his or her own medium with which to paint a picture, whether it be oil, watercolor, pencil, a camera or an instrument. Jeff Beck uses his guitar (specifically an array of Fender Stratocasters) to paint his world, and consequently ours, with sound.
Beck is a true singer who, not only can use his voice (refer to “Pay Me No Mind [Jeff Beck Remix]” from Jeff), but his instrument as well, finding a way to belt out the sweetest and sickest notes with a dynamite combination of guitar and supercharged emotion. It is the reason he finds, understands, performs and records with the oral crème of the crop: Olivia Safe, Joss Stone, Rod Stewart, Kelly Clarkson, and on this tour, the stunningly beautiful and scarily talented Imelda May, who opened the night to a standing ovation and later joined Beck onstage to perform Jeff Buckley’s “Lilac Wine” and pay tribute to Beck’s dear friend, the late Les Paul at Montclair’s Wellmont Theatre.
It was probably one of the more magical nights I’ve witnessed in my lifetime (especially at Wellmont); one where light, sound, vibe and audience behavior combined to create an ethereal effect. Never have I encountered a group of onlookers who were so wrapped up in a performance. By the looks on their faces, the performers too were dumbfounded by the incredibly respectful response. “Oh my God!” would slip out and bellow from scattered seats at times, especially during Beck’s right-handed slide playing during “Angel (Footsteps)” a technique no one has successfully copied since.
From “People Get Ready,” “Big Block,” “Nessun Dorma,” “A Day In The Life” to “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” all bases were covered. Material that had not been played in years was enjoying its time in the spotlight with a band (Jason Rebello: keys; Narada Michael Walden: drums; Rhonda Smith: bass) intended to play such songs.
Although I’ve said this before, it deserves a repeat. Lately, no matter who I speak to about Beck immediately responds with “Yeah man, Wired is amazing!” Somehow, people who consider themselves “fans” of the divine guitarist came to a halt at that album, despite all of the masterful work that followed, from 1980’s There And Back to 2010’s brilliant Emotion & Commotion, with 1999’s Who Else! being a particularly good choice. My best advice for Beck fans is: don’t stop at Wired and claim that you know Beck. Until you’ve followed everything he’s done, witnessed his extensive growth, and listened in awe to every nuance of his creations, you haven’t a clue. And while you’re at it, go out and support May, the rockabilly-and-beyond queen. We can’t rely on an opening slot for Beck to catapult her, it all comes down to worldwide support and appreciation for true talent.