@ZackTeibloom Jeff Beck came to blow our minds. Jazz Fest producer Quint Davis introduced Beck by calling him the greatest guitarist to come out of and emerge from Rock n’ Roll. It’s a lot to live up to. Beck had no problem living up to the hype.
With white high-top wrestling shoes, a cut-off white t-shirt, stylishly coifed hair and thick silver jewelry on his wrists and left bicep, there was nothing subtle about his look or his playing. It was jaw-dropping from the first notes. Beck achieves a tone on his guitar that you just don’t hear from anyone else. He came out blazing with three fast jazz-fusion guitar jaunts with no vocals. It took a bit to register that no one sang most of the time. Beck’s guitar sings enough on its own.
After the three songs that showed off his chops, Beck slowed it down to play one off his brand new album, Emotion and Commotion, an album full of drawn out, soaring guitar notes held extra long as his keyboardist fills in with synth noises that sound like rolling thunder as if Beck is painting tones in the sky.
He comes back down to earth with a funky slap-bass heavy song with the incredible Rhonda Smith, his female bassist who keeps Beck grounded with vocals and some roots. They started a barrage of covers with “People Get Ready” which gave the crowd something to hang their hat on.
Then I finally got the Sly redemption I desperately needed after this happened. A rousing “I Want to Take You Higher” was spot-on perfection. I never realized how much room to solo there was on that song, but I guess Beck could make that happen with just about any song. Smith owned the vocals and Beck took it higher than, well, I guess higher than Sly was at Coachella.
How do you follow it up? The ultimate cover song, “A Day in The Life” I’ve written a ton on this song specifically, (see below) after seeing Phish and Neil Young destroy it in the only two 10/10 shows I’ve ever seen. It’s a good litmus test for a show. Jeff Beck does a pointed cover, but never quite reaches the transcendent level the others do. He saves that for “Over the Rainbow.”
“A Day in The Life”
Beck’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” would make Judy Garland roll over in her grave and call out “uncle!” He brings the sincere wistfulness of the song out and backs it with a fierce roar and unmistakeable tone.
When his last notes soared into the windy overcast New Orleans afternoon, cries of “Unbelievable!” came up from around me. It really was. Having gone from Pearl Jam to Jeff Beck was eye-opening. Pearl Jam still has it, but Jeff Beck is captivating every moment he’s on stage, in a way Pearl Jam rarely is.
Rolling Stone rated Jeff Beck the #14 guitarist of all time, between Jerry Garcia and Carlos Santana. B.B. King comes in at #3 and we get to see if he and Lucille have the chops to put together something like the awe-inspiring triumph that was Jeff Beck at Jazz Fest. For the record, Jack White came in at #17 and I hear he’s alright, so lets make sure to check some of this “Dead Weather” band out. You’ll win a free 45 if you can guess how long Zack makes it at #17.
- “Covering Cover Songs: “I’d Love to Turn You On”
- A Day in the Life at Jazz Fest ’09
- Sly at Coachella: Worst Show Ever