FLASHBACK: Jeff Beck @ the Palace Theatre, 10/8/13

Editor’s Note: Very sad news to hear of guitar giant Jeff Beck’s death at age 78. Republishing this review of a 2013 concert to remind everybody how impressive he was, wherever he traveled. Including right here.

(Originally published October 10, 2013)

Jeff Beck
Jeff Beck

Review by Bokonon
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

Jeff Beck invented the electric guitar. Shut up.

Les Paul, Link Wray, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Listen to “Over Under Sideways Down” and learn.

Somewhere along the way, after inventing British blues, psychedelia, and fusion, Beck dropped his pick and never picked it up off the floor, using instead the fat left side of his thumb as a tone generator of Olympian proportions.

He put that thumb to Strat at the Palace Tuesday night, in a bizarre paring with Beach Boy Brian Wilson and his personal tribute band.

Beck burned. The selections weren’t necessarily top notch, but it rarely mattered. His band was good. Not great. Actually, they were OK. There wasn’t a Richard Bailey to put his fist through the snare, or even a Max Middleton to foil, but it worked.

And it worked because of Beck and his thumb. Dear god, the sounds he strangles out of a six-string. Cliff Gallup via downtown no wave; violin in heat; Jimmy Wyble gone bad. It just goes on and on.

Here’s the thing about Clapton. Watch him. When he’s on his game and not playing the genteel elder statesman in a PBS special about the loss of funk in American life, he’s inhabiting the instrument. Each note is a negotiation. Each sound is a sculpture — middle pickup, tone 7, volume 8, bend, release.

Beck takes it even farther, leaning back with a flourish to jack the Marshall a tad higher, leaning down on the whammy bar, hard, letting go, reaching for the high frets… bam.

He’s playing the air, he’s rolling the Higgs Boson between his fingertips.

At the Palace, he gave all. There was humor in his playing. That only comes with mastery. There was mirth, sadness and perhaps more than anything, there was longing. This, kids, is what the shredders miss. The sheer length of the note, the purity of attack, intent, the listening for the heartbeat.

Beck has the ear for it. And the hands. Even Clapton says it’s all in Beck’s hands.

Towards the end of Beck’s graceful set, Wilson’s gang made their way back to stage, lending voices to the mix — a “Surf’s Up” chorale for Fender and falsetto. The wordless parts were wondrous, floating, ethereal.

“Barbara Ann” was more Beach Boys bullshit, but at least Beck impaled it. Seven guitars? Really? With Jeff Beck onstage? Please.

Classic rock is a dead dog, its tongue stuck to the sidewalk. Brian Wilson is a joke. Sue me. But Beck, even at his loungiest, moves forward. The thumb.

Paul Rapp’s review at Metroland
Greg Haymes’ review at The Times Union
Excerpt from Michael Hochanadel’s review at The Daily Gazette: “Beck blew away any doubts this strange pairing could work with sheer, tremendous power; a towering display of guitar mastery and small-band dynamics — five pieces to Wilson’s 12. Beck plucked his guitar with fingers (they must be made of steel) and used whammy bar and volume knob to shape notes in mid-air. Some recognizable songs emerged from his quintet’s funky, fiery flow: Mahavishnu Orchestra’s “You Know You Know,” Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing,” the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life,” his own “Big Block.” But the song itself seldom mattered; what Beck did with each invariably did. Wilson was right, Beck could play anything his fertile mind could conjure to power his hands and push the band.

LIVE: Brian Wilson @ the Palace Theatre, 10/8/13
Meet & Greet: Brian Wilson & Jeff Beck @ the Palace Theatre, 10/8/13
Photos of Jeff Beck at the Aerodrome in Schenectady, 7/2/69

NOTE: Jeff Beck and Brian Wilson perform on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” tonight (Thursday, October 10) at 12:30am.

Lizzie Ball
Lizzie Ball
Rhonda Smith
Rhonda Smith
Jeff Beck
Jeff Beck
  1. Jim says

    You come across as a bitter Jeff Beck fan that doesn’t like the fact that he’s branching out and working with people outside his musical spectrum. You don’t even attempt to review Brian Wilson’s set and yet still see fit to call him a joke. If you’re gonna make statements like that about one of the most important composers of the twentieth century then you should probably back it up.

  2. Harry O'Tool says

    Bokonon , my sentiments exactly.

  3. Sean says

    Wow, way to write a review… Sounds like you went into the show a Beach Boys hater and stuck with that regardless of how wonderfully Brian Wilson, Al Jardine & co performed. Beck was great for sure and he is a legend, but to dig into WIlson like that without even attempting to offer a proper review of their equally great set makes the reviewer come across as a very poor writer and reviewer.

  4. Richard Brody says

    First the knife goes into poor Stevie Nicks and now you cut the legs out from under troubled Brian Wilson and then question Jeff Beck’s decision to play with him. I think that you might be having a bad week. My suggestion is putting on “Heroes and Villains” and hit the re-evaluate button.

  5. Fred says

    RIP Jeff Beck. Truly one of my favorite musicians. I saw him play once, at the RPI Fieldhouse, on a brilliant double bill with Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble. It was truly a loud, exciting night of music!

    Aside from being an extraordinary guitarist, Jeff Beck was one of the funniest people in music–I’ll cherish the fact that he answered a question I posed to UNCUT music magazine a decade ago about what his thoughts were about being the role model for Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap!

    Here’s what Jeff Beck’s response was:

    “I went to see the film at Westward Village in Los Angeles when it came out, and I sat in the cinema with a bottle of champagne, not knowing what to expect, and I think I was the only one in the audience laughing! Sobbing with laughter. All these people were shooshing me! I’ve since become friends with Christopher Guest. Boy, does he do his research. He spent a year going around dog shows before he did ‘Best In Show’! And he and Rob Reiner went through tons of footage and followed lots of rock bands for …’Spinal Tap’. Apparently, Nigel Tufnel was modelled on a heavy metal star – I can’t tell you who – but Chris adopted my look, because he could do me better! Obviously, I never had anything to do with metal, as such. However, I’ve also become good friends with Peter Richardson, who did ‘Bad News’. Another fantastic parody, absolutely spot on.”

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