Jeff Beck was celebrated for distinctive interpretations of many different hit songs as well as wonderful original material. Most of all, it was his inventive style that left listeners in awe. His ability to elicit voice-like tones from his Fender guitar was arguably unrivalled.
Beck tackled material that might have dissuaded a lesser musician, ranging from rock to jazz to the classics. Even the operatic piece “Nessun Dorma” received his special treatment, for instance, and beautifully so. While it was not in this show, the set list offered tunes that underlined Beck’s eclectic tastes. It also reminded the audience of his marvellous skills at leaving spaces between notes or lingering on them to create great emotional register.
Comprising four guitarists (Paul Mason, Kathleen Halloran, Jeremy Sawkins, James Muller), bass player Noel Mason, keyboard player Darren Pritchard, drummer Warren Trout, and vocalists Nina Ferro and Carla Lippis, the band performed in different permutations. Three players might be offering a spare and wistful tune at one point with a single guitarist, only to be augmented at the next when everybody occupied the stage for a forceful rendition.
The opening tune, “Blackbird” (not the McCartney tune), stunned with its intervals and high, bird-like sounds. On the You Had It Coming album, this was a brief call-and-response game between Beck and actual blackbird recordings. Mason’s fretwork and use of the tremelo arm on this night was a demonstration of finesse and delicacy.
“I Put a Spell on You” was from a very different school. A hit for Jalacy “Screamin’ Jay” Hawkins, this lends itself to a whole range of interpretations, from, well, screaming to cool and threatening. Halloran sparkled on guitar, with Lippis and Ferro ripping it up on vocals. A powerhouse song.
The Shangri-Las’ “Remember (Walkin’ in the Sand)”, sometimes referred to as the “Oh No’ song, featured Lippis in top form. “Never Alone” was followed by Curtis Mayfield’s classic, “People Get Ready”, a hit for The Impressions. Recorded by Beck with Rod Stewart singing, the song’s intended gospel feel was superbly preserved on this night in a rousing performance by Ferro and Lippis.
“Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, with just Mason on guitar and Pritchard on synthesiser-sounding keyboards, was slow and heartfelt.
There was much more. The band delivered “Big Block”, as massive as the name suggests, Stevie Wonder’s haunting “Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers”, and a breathtaking “Scatterbrain”, among others.
The guitarwork was scintillating throughout. A key characteristic of the show was the way that each guitarist would swap solo spots in a song, taking turns with intricate fretwork, or playing lines simultaneously with their colleagues; cleanly and without obscuring the other instruments.
A generous serve of three encore tunes included Roger Waters’ “What God Wants”. A real blast from the past came with the final song, The Yardbirds’ “Heart Full of Soul”. With a standing ovation, Mason hinted at possibly returning for a similar show in the next Guitar Festival, which would be a jewel in its crown.
The Music of Jeff Beck was presented on Friday night as part of the 2023 Adelaide Guitar Festival, which continues until July 16.
Read more Guitar Festival reviews here.
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