I’ve blogged about Jeff Beck – one of the most influential musicians in the history of rock music – before, here and here. And I make no apology for blogging about him again, especially as his appearance on stage last night was the best I’ve ever seen him.
He played a set of soaring, emotive tunes, accompanied by the crisp hugeness of Narada Michael Walden’s drums, Rhonda Smith’s bass (boy, has she got the funk) and Jason Rebello’s inventive, playful keyboards. As well as his own marvellous compositions, one of which he said he only wrote four days before, he played other tunes including Nessun Dorma (what a great choice for an encore), A Day in the Life, and the gospel tune People Get Ready. The latter is a song I like very much, but is prone to over-sentimentality; Jeff strips it of schmultz and makes it meaningful again.
Jeff hands physically play the guitar of course, but the music – the expression and the feeling – seem to ooze straight up from somewhere inside him. And you feel this. I said it in an earlier blog and I stand by it, Jeff’s music “doesn’t merely touch you, it inhabits you.”
From the front row of Bristol’s Colston Hall, we saw something happen on stage which defies description. Jeff and his band may have played the same songs in roughly the same order with the same instruments for the previous few gigs on this tour, but something magic happened – something about all the elements coming together to create more than sum of the parts. I thought perhaps it was because my view was uninterrupted and intimate – all I had in my field of vision was Jeff and the band – but the whole audience felt it and so did Jeff.
And after all these years (he’s 66 now), he’s still enjoying himself playing big tunes, making sweet sounds that I’ve never heard anyone else get from a guitar. Perhaps he’s enjoying it more than ever. It certainly looks like it.
After an encore of Sly and Family Stone’s song Higher there was a rapturous standing ovation. The band bowed. The white flowers which had adorned Narada Michael Walden’s sparkly drum kit were plucked out, and Jeff reached down and gave one to me. We shared a fleeting moment. He went off stage, but the audience wouldn’t let him go. He came back on briefly to end the show with a quick verse of god save the queen.
Perhaps Jeff is wizard after all. He can certainly make magic with a guitar.
Photos: Moth Clark. More of Moth’s pics of Jeff here.