Legendary guitarist Jeff Beck played to a sold out crowd at The Pageant, in what is best described as a stunning display of virtuosity from one of the world's most innovative musicians. Beck's band this time out is the same as on the 2000 tour--Jennifer Batten on MIDI guitar and vocals, Randy Hope-Taylor on bass, and Andy Gangadeen on drums. Blasting onto the stage with "Earthquake" from his latest CD, You Had it Coming, the 56-year-old guitarist set the tone for the evening right away. There would be a few quiet songs thrown in here and there, but overall, this was going to be a night of intense guitar fury. Beck dipped into his back catalog early in the set with fairly straight renditions of "Star Cycle" and "The Pump." As the evening went on, these would end up being two of the few pre-1995 songs in the set. Most were from his last two albums.
"Brush With the Blues" segued perfectly out of "The Pump" and was the first of many highlights during the show. Using his trademark white Stratocaster and minimal effects, Beck began the song by coercing the sweetest sounds from his guitar and then left the audience in complete awe as he fired off one blistering riff after another. If there were ever any doubts as to Beck's abilities on the guitar, this song laid them all to rest. On "Blast From the East," he shared lead guitar duties with Batten. A fine guitarist in her own right, Batten actually seems to push Beck to play better. The interplay between them is amazing.
On "Dirty Mind," Batten stepped up to the microphone to lend her seductive vocals to the fiery tune. Beck slowed things down for the beautiful "Angel (Footsteps)." Since he's not touring with a keyboard player, he's skipping a lot of the tracks that many consider 'Jeff Beck classics.' Songs like "'Cause We've Ended as Lovers," "Blue Wind" and the song that is probably responsible for more speeding tickets than any other in his catalog, "Freeway Jam." Instead, he leaves a lot of the 'keyboard' sounds to Batten and her MIDI equipment. Beck took the opportunity to show subtlety in his playing again during "Nadia," a gorgeous ballad with a jungle-like rhythm behind it.
After "Nadia," the band launched into the oldest tune of the evening, "Rice Pudding" from 1969's Beck-Ola album. While it obviously didn't have the piano interlude, the crowd clearly loved this one. "Behind the Veil" found Beck and his band in a reggae mode, if only for this one song. From there it was back to the new album for "Loose Cannon" and a return to his blues roots on the Muddy Waters classic, "Rollin' & Tumblin'." The latter saw a brief change in the lineup as Hope-Taylor traded his bass for a Telecaster and Batten stepped into the spotlight to sing lead. Batten came to the forefront again taking the solos on Wired's "Led Boots." For many in the audience, the highlight of the show was Beck's magnificent cover of The Beatles' "A Day in the Life." Not content to just play it straight, Beck added various textures and nuances to the song, making it truly his own.
For the encore, the St. Louis crowd was treated to four more songs: the always beautiful "Where Were You," a snippet of the Charles Mingus standard "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," "Rosebud," and the set closer, "What Mama Said." Beck's band was strong and powerful throughout the short 90-minute set, but it was his exceptional ability that made the show the success that it was. Whether loud and aggressive or soft and sensitive, Jeff Beck continues to push the envelope, transcending all musical boundaries. The show at The Pageant was a perfect example.
|© 2001 Steve
Photographs © 2001 Lauren Marshall