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In The Flesh

Live Review – Jeff Beck @ The Chicago Theatre

| June 3, 2015
Live at Chicago Theater Jeff Beck- Photo: Philamonjaro (Phillip Solomonson)

Jeff Beck
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:


You Know You Know
Morning Dew
Why Give It Away
A Change Is Gonna Come
Lonnie on the Move
You Never Know
Little Wing
Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers
Big Block
A Day in the Life
Corpus Christi
Rollin’ and Tumblin’
Going Down


Danny Boy
The Thrill is Gone

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Category: Live Reviews

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Comments (3)

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  1. Rick McGowen says:

    Nice job! Finally somebody used the word unparalleled! That’s the word I use most when I tell people who are what I refer to as uninitiated. Seen Mr. Beck perform since 65….


  2. John Roberts says:

    the anger from Jeff was due to a clunker note ,unheard of for him, and he was upset with himself. I too have watched him since the Yardbirds , have pic published in book about him from October 68 show in Chicago, and cherish everything he’s released and marveled at live shows over decades. Didn’t care much for the singer he had but that’s minor when you can spend an evening listening to true genius. Truly unique and still ground breaking.

  3. Kathy Stinger says:

    Great review, and I’m so sad I missed this great show. So much amazing music, so little time…