Back in May of 1995, when Jeff Beck co-headlined the Cal Expo Amphitheater with Carlos Santana, the 50-year-old guitarist rocked a sleeveless shirt. Flash forward two decades later to Jackson Rancheria’s Outdoor Amphitheater, and he’s sporting that familiar sleeveless look again, and not only pulling it off as a septeganarian, but looking and sounding as sharp as ever.
One also has to consider that on this night, the 72 year-old Beck was the youngster on stage. He was sharing this tour with Buddy Guy, another ageless wonder who turned 80 a few weeks earlier. Guy, who also looks great, is quite a pistol onstage. He kept the crowd on their toes with some searing guitar work and more than a few well-placed F-Bombs.
Age is clearly just a number where these two are concerned—both are still at the top of their game. In fact, it can be said that the duo are two of the greatest six-string slingers to have ever walked the Earth.
Guy opened the show with “Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues,” and proceeded to school the crowd in all facets of the genre while keeping them laughing with amusing anecdotes, withering looks and loud, distorted blues attacks. At one point, he demonstrated how his rapid-style rhyming vocals helped influence rap music.
The guitarist is a native of Louisiana, but has resided in Chicago for decades, where he operates the popular blues club Buddy Guy’s Legends. Remarkably, he still spends a large part of the year on the road. After wrapping up the tour with Beck last weekend, he was off to join young bluesman Jonny Lang for a few weeks. Guy wondered aloud during his set about what he could do to help with the recent flooding in Louisiana when he gets a break from touring.
Beck, the innovative Englishman, always surrounds himself with great veteran players as well as young talent and it seems to bring the best out in him. On this tour, he brought along vocalist Rosie Bones and guitarist Carmen Vandenberg from the U.K. band Bones, both of whom had collaborated with him on his recent release, Loud Hailer. He also had a mix of top veteran musicians along, including bassist Rhonda Smith (who spent a decade playing with Prince), drummer Jonathan Joseph (Pat Metheny, Joss Stone) and vocalist Jimmy Hall (Wet Willie), who handled the classic vocal parts.
Beck has been an interesting study for guitar enthusiasts. He first came to prominence with the Yardbirds in 1965 and went on to form the Jeff Beck Group, which featured Rod Stewart on vocals, and released a pair of albums, including Truth, which is considered a classic. In the ‘70s, he released a pair of striking jazz-rock instrumental albums, Blow by Blow and Wired, that were produced by George Martin of Beatles fame. In the late ‘80s he ditched playing with a pick and began playing bare-fingered. The result was a new level of sound with amazing harmonic overtones as his fingers manipulated both strings and the vibrato bar with a striking deftness. It began an entirely new chapter in his career, which has since been rewritten again and again as he searches for new sounds.
The guitarist, who speaks very little onstage, did most of his talking with his instrument. And on this spectacular evening in Jackson, he thrilled the crowd with a bit of the old and the new. There were some cuts off the new record and plenty of classics including “Beck’s Bolero,” “Freeway Jam” and the instrumental heart-stopper “Because We’ve Ended as Lovers.”
More than a few in the Jackson crowd had made the drive to see Beck’s other regional shows in Saratoga and San Francisco earlier in the week. Not a bad idea, considering that no one knows when the guitarist will come back or a pairing like this will happen again. Perhaps sensing the gratitude from these fans, after Beck ended the night with a gorgeous instrumental interpretation of “A Day in the Life” by the Beatles, and then politely said that he hopes to come back sometime soon.
And when he does, there’s no doubt he will donning a vest.
Source: News Review