Chicago Theatre, Chicago, IL
Thursday, May 21, 2015
The thing that occurs to you while experiencing a Jeff Beck concert is this: You know the rafter-shaking peak of a band’s rock show when the lead guitarist steps forward during the middle of everyone’s favorite song to deliver that one spine-tingling solo that puts your jaw on the floor? That represents just about every moment of a Jeff Beck show.
Beck turns 71 next month, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee has honed his craft in the public eye for 50 years. As he leaned hard on the vibrato bar and attacked the “Cult of Personality”-like riff of “Nine” with his thumb, it was clear that Beck hasn’t mellowed with age. He roamed the stage flashing grins at his virtuoso bandmates while abusing his distinctive white Stratocaster with its peculiar, left-handed neck.
The two-hour set included 13 of the 14 live tracks featured on Beck’s new Live+ album. Barely speaking a word, the guitarist let his instrument do the talking.
Beck’s unparalleled finger-style technique and melodic sensibility shone on his version of Mahavishnu Orchestra’s “You Know You Know.” The dizzying playing was effortless enough to allow Beck to blow kisses between hot licks. The early song also allowed spotlights for veteran Prince bassist Rhonda Smith and drummer Jonathan Joseph.
These showcases demonstrated another difference between Beck’s show and a typical rock show. While drum and bass solos frequently provide bar breaks at other gigs, they earned standing ovations at Chicago Theatre.
Powerhouse blue-eyed soul singer Jimmy Hall shone on songs including “Morning Dew” from 1968’s Truth album and a cover of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come.” Hall’s collaboration with Beck dates back to 1985’s Flash album, when many were introduced to the Wet Willie veteran through MTV airplay of Beck’s single
The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” and Stevie Wonder’s “’Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers” (recorded on 1975’s Blow by Blow) were mid-set highlights, followed by the delicate “Corpus Christi.” Beck had been in high spirits throughout the show, but the intimacy evoked during “Corpus Christi” was interrupted by catcalls from the room. Beck threw his instrument cable aside and stormed to the opposite side of the stage after the interruption, smacking his head at the loss of a serene moment of communion.
Beck vented his anger and regained his energy, however, during a furious “Rollin’ and Tumblin’.” He and Hall coaxed each other in intensity throughout the remainder of the show. By the end of the heavy blues “Going Down,” Beck was on his knees pounding the floor in praise of his bandmate. At the encore, Beck spoke at last. “Thank you so much for being so loyal to me,” he said before playing a sweet, heart-tugging version of “Danny Boy.”
“This is for B.B.,” announced Hall when introducing encore selection “The Thrill is Gone.” As the band delivered one final riveting performance for the evening, a few were nonetheless seen watching the Blackhawks’ playoff loss on their iPhones. Thankfully, Beck didn’t notice and left the stage smiling.
– Jeff Elbel
Jeff Elbel is a local free-lance writer. Email: email@example.com
You Know You Know
Why Give It Away
A Change Is Gonna Come
Lonnie on the Move
You Never Know
Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers
A Day in the Life
Rollin’ and Tumblin’
The Thrill is Gone
Category: Live Reviews