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Eclectic guitar hero
(Filed: 17/09/2002)

David Cheal reviews Jeff Beck at the Festival Hall

Is there anything Jeff Beck can't do with a guitar? On this, the second of three nights on the South Bank, in a show celebrating his 35-year career as a Yardbird and as a solo artist, the mop-topped virtuoso fired off some truly awesome solos in just about any style you could care to mention: scratchy blues, R&B, jazzy fusion stuff, prog rock, and Anglo-Indian drum and bass crossover (in the shape of a Nitin Sawhney tune called Nadia). It was an epic, sprawling evening, featuring contributions from a truly idiosyncratic bunch of special guests (I never thought I'd see the White Stripes and Roger Waters on the same bill).

Jeff Beck
Jeff Beck: miscellany

It began unpromisingly, as Beck and his band - including guitarist Jennifer Bitten (once a member of Michael Jackson's on-stage band) and keyboardist Tony Hymas (who seems to have two brains, one controlling each hand), after a dip into the archives with Beck's Bolero, churned out some clever but nondescript music which was hampered by a problem that has afflicted some of Beck's work: a focus on technical virtuosity at the expense of emotional content. Then Beck introduced a second drummer, an impossibly youthful-looking Terry Bozzio, who sat behind his unfeasibly large kit and started to pep things up a bit.

But it was after the interval that things really began to warm up. In his mumbled delivery, Beck introduced the White Stripes, the brother and sister combo whose abrasive blues-based music has much in common with the kind of stuff Beck was playing in the 1960s; together, they knocked out some terrific tunes. After which there came another mumbled introduction, in which the words "gonna be" and "star" were audible: Imogen Heap. She stayed for only one song, but what a song: a rumbling, clattering, restless Rollin' and Tumblin'. Sensational.

And there was more: the aforementioned - and utterly exquisite - Nitin Sawhney tune (which appears on Beck's most recent album, You Had It Coming); some characteristically serious songs from Roger Waters, including the portentous What God Wants; and a gorgeous version of People Get Ready. Finally, a karaoke-style Hi-Ho Silver Lining brought the evening to a ramshackle close, leaving me feeling bewildered by such a miscellany of musical styles, but buzzing from the sheer quality of the musicianship.

  • You can buy Jeff Beck's album Guitar Shop from our retail partner Musica for the special price of 6. Click here for details.

    6 April 2002: A performance in three dimensions [report on Nitin Sawhney's collaboration with Anish Kapoor and Akram Khan]
    21 February 2002: Great White hopes [interview with the White Stripes]

  • External links  
    Jeff Beck [official site]