Eclectic guitar hero
David Cheal reviews Jeff Beck at the
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: 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.