I had the chance to attend to the Jeff Beck’s concert at Olympia (Paris) thanks to my friend, and fellow blogger François (from the Grattonaute), and I am going to tell you how grateful I am in the following lines! It was on October, 11 2010, and I think I’m going to write it down as the day I had the most brilliant guitar lesson ever!
18.30… The whole day was sunny so I had no problems leaving the dancing pixels of my screen alone to move toward the Olympia venue! I sent, and received a couple of SMS to find a spot to meet with François, we had a beer, and then it was already 19.45… Time to enter the venue.
20.00… We are at our places at the Olympia balcony… A bit far to be at the heart of the action but let’s not be grumpy, I am here after all! The atmosphere is cosy, and it is getting warmer as time is passing by. Some movements on stage, and here comes the support band for tonight… Hillbilly Moon Explosion! Such a strange name for a band that reminds us how Jeff Beck is a Rockabilly music fan in case you missed the constant references to Gene Vincent guitarist Cliff Gallup in Beck’s interviews. So this band served us a Rockabilly on the rock. Their music is anchored in the 1950s tradition but with a strong dose of Mambo, and some Jazzy influences. I guess that they probably have listened a lot to Brian Setzer which is healthy, and good for us. Sweet female singer/rhythm guitar player… Twangy guitars… Percussive upright bass… Swinging drums! Needless to say that I loved this band!
Around 21.00… I don’t have my eye on the clock, I’m too excited by the upcoming gig so I don’t care what time it is! Jeff Beck comes on stage to attack with the song Plan B (from the album Jeff)… Big news: Jeff Beck actually is the subtle guitarist that everybody say he is! Not that I was dubious about that fact but you really know that kind of thing once you see the real deal i.e. in concert! That’s the most impressive with Jeff Beck! Even live on stage, the man has a subtle guitar touch that allows him to play some whispered notes that are barely identifiable as guitar notes, and then without any effort he strums the wildest chords on his imaculate Stratocaster.
Though I have watched many concerts videos of Jeff Beck, I’ve never got used to the fact that what you hear on Beck’s album is way beyond some post-production tricks on the guitar tracks. Obviously, there are post-prod manipulations, and effects on the albums that Jeff Beck can’t render once on stage. But after this concert I now know that the essence, the secret of his tone, and playing is in Jeff Beck’s fingers!
The backing band members are all coming from a jazz & funk background (Narada Walden ex-Mahavishnu Orchestra, Rhonda Smith ex-Prince, Jason Rebello ex-Wayne Shorter) and they put all their knowledge, and skills to create a massive groove supporting Jeff Becks virtuosity. However, every musician on stage had its solo moment, and these guys are virtuosos too. I admit it… I had a crush for the gorgeous & groovy Rhonda Smith (I already knew her work but seeing her on stage was awesome). She is an awesome bass guitar, upright bass player, and the way she sings on Rollin’ & Tumblin’ had that delicious soul blues accent that I like with female singers. It is a bit far from the lyricism of Imogen Heap (on the You Had It Coming album version of the song) but it is as lovely.
I’m not going to comment every song of the set-list but my favorite moments of the concert were all from the pre Emotion & Commotion period… You know! Those songs that kind of songs with powerful groovy riffs, and crazy guitar licks that sound like singing voices rather than guitar solos (Led Boots, Rollin’ & Tumblin’, Big Block, Blast From East, Dirty Mind among others). I have been quite surprised by the tunes from Emotion & Commotion though. Indeed, the album itself didn’t fully satisfied me but the tunes came to life during the concert (at least for me) because the emotional aspects of the melodic guitar traits appeared to be stronger than the album. That was particularly the case with Corpus Christi Carol or Nessun Dorma melodies that have this ability to hit you to the heart in a few seconds just like Jeff Beck does with Over The Rainbow or A Day In Life covers.
Jeff Beck is 66 years old and he seems unstoppable on his guitar skills progression… As we were talking about this with François, unlike many guitarists, and former guitar heroes his guitar playing doesn’t seem to decline. Au contraire, he gave me the impression that he is always improving! Jeff Beck is following a path in his personal musical world… He is still exploring every corner of it… He takes guitar licks from the past to transform them into modern riffs. Jeff Beck is more than an innovator, he is an alchemist kind of guy! It’s too bad that he never really did hit the mainstream…
Here are some excerpts of the concert… I made a medley so any of the tunes are full versions. As for the quality of the image, I am sorry but I guess I reached the limits of the Kodak Zi-8 zoom.
Jeff Beck – Medley du Concert à l’Olympia – Partie 1
Jeff Beck – Medley du Concert à l’Olympia – Partie 2
Jeff Beck – Medley du Concert à l’Olympia – Partie 3
Fragments of the concert set-list ranked album d’origine
- From Emotion & Commotion (2010): Corpus Christi Carol, Hammerhead, Over The Rainbow, Nessun Dorma
- From Jeff (2003) : Plan B
- From You Had It Coming (2001) : Rollin’ and Tumblin’, Dirty mind
- From Who Else! (1999) : Blast from East, Angel, Brush with the blues
- From Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop (1989) : Big Block
- From Flash (1985) : People Get Ready
- From Wired (1976) : Led Boots
- Misc. : Stratus, Bass solo, A day in the life (Beatles), How High (tribute to Les Paul)