Jeff Beck perfect at The Paramount Huntington, NY 4-16-15

beck slide for site - Jeff Beck perfect at The Paramount Huntington, NY 4-16-15

Jeff Beck perfect at The Paramount Huntington, NY 4-16-15

Back in 1965, a young guitarist by the name of Jeff Beck joined England’s The Yardbirds to replace Eric Clapton. While a difficult task, the band did not skip a beat and celebrated their most successful tenure during the Beck era. Parting ways with the band a year later, Beck went out on his own and released his solo debut album in 1968 album titled Truth under the moniker The Jeff Beck Group. The lineup included Beck, Micky Waller on drums, future Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood on bass, future Faces’ frontman, and solo superstar Rod Stewart on vocals. Over the next forty years, Beck would release another fourteen albums, including a one-off with the supergroup Beck, Bogert & Appice, and a soundtrack. Through it all, Beck would become a Rock-n-Roll legend having influenced generations of guitarists along the way. Now in 2015, Beck has a new studio album in the works and is back on the road touring North America. With his renowned technical ability and penchant for dabbling in a variety of musical styles, Beck kicked off the solo tour with a two night stand at The Paramount in Huntington, New York on Thursday April 16th. Originally scheduled for March of 2012, good things come to those who wait, and now Long Island was ready for a night of wildly diverse musical enchantment.

Opening the evening was Honey Grove, Texas’ Tyler Bryant. Beginning to play the guitar while only six years old, Bryant, whom is now twenty-four years old, has opened for the likes of  Aerosmith, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Joe Bonamassa, B.B. King, Pat Benatar, Heart, and Jeff Beck, among others. Set to go into the studio with his band the Shakedown on May 11th, this solo tour would be an introduction for many to this bright, talented guitarist. Bringing his deep love for the Blues to the stage,  his thirty minute set floored the crowd with his old school southern Blues Boogie feel. Bryant played a mixed bag of originals such as “House on Fire” and “Grow A Man Up,” along with old Blues covers.  His intense energy was the perfect primer for Beck, and there is no doubt he has a promising future in Rock-n-Roll with his best years ahead of him.

After a brief intermission, fans of all ages clamored for the arrival of Beck on The Paramount stage. For some, it would be a journey into Rock-n-Roll history, while for others it would be a lesson on the pure soulful nature of classic Rock guitar. Beck, along with his band of Jonathan Joseph (drums), Nicolas Meier (guitar), Rhonda Smith (bass), and former Wet Willie singer Jimmy Hall on vocals, walked out to a roar of cheers with the fun about to begin.

With its ominous, dark opening, “Loaded” started Beck’s set in grand fashion. Featuring heavy drums that would not be out of place on a classic Hip-Hop track, Beck played spaced out guitars on the all instrumental track before seguing right into another instrumental track titled “Nine.” Meier laid down a melody on rhythm, echoing the best of ’80s Heavy Metal, over which Beck played solos displaying his reach as he channeled late ’60s heavy Blues Rock, ’70s Arena Rock, ’70s Heavy Metal, and the best of ’80s and ’90s atmospheric soundscapes. This opening segment let the crowd know he and his band would be covering both ends of the  Rock-n-Roll spectrum and all points in between throughout the night.

“You Know You Know” found Beck and the rest of the band taking a backseat to Smith as her bouncy bass line was not only the lead, but she took over the middle section of the seven minute plus track with agile, Funk-laden bass solos. Beck played quietly with sharp tasteful licks as Smith attacked the song with unrelenting fervor. Meanwhile, “Hammerhead” kept the instrumental train rolling along with its electric Delta Blues sound. Unrelenting drumming by Joseph kept the song chugging along while Beck pumped out traditional Blues riffs, one after another, before a slowed down outro. Following the four song instrumental run, “Morning Dew” came next and lit up the room. The song, written by Canadian Folk musician Bonnie Dobson, has been covered by Robert Plant, The Grateful Dead, Nazareth, The Allman Brothers Band, and many more since its initial release in 1962. Featuring a conversation between the last man and the last woman on Earth after an apocalyptic event, despite the morbid tone of the lyrics, the band took the song to spiraling heights as an up-tempo rocker. Hall deftly disguising the bleak subject matter with vocals comparable to a Juke Joint Rave-Up, and Beck playing a hard charging lead with sly understatement, allowing the powerful vocals to shine. Next was a pleasant surprise for the audience as Beck went into “Why Give It Away” from the 2014 Japan only EP Yosogai. Although released only a year ago, the song took on the feel of early ’80s Rock with a slinky lead on guitar, mechanical sounding drums, a Pop-oriented chorus, before succumbing to a complete takeover by Beck on guitar in which he tore through an extended solo with heavy reverb and light, echoing notes.

One of eleven covers of the night, Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” was Hall’s most powerful performance this night. Covering a man regarded as one of the greatest of all time takes not only talent, but plenty of guts. Besides delivering an unearthly powerful performance, Hall had a little fun changing up the lyrics and singing about life on tour with Jeff Beck. Cooke’s version was a little over two and a half minutes long, but Beck and company stretched it out to almost nine minutes as Beck complemented Hall’s Soul-drenched vocals with several darting solos. Next was “My Tiled White Floor” from the forthcoming live album (one of two studio cuts) featuring Smith on lead vocals. Taking on a sound reminiscent of peak ’70s Pink Floyd, the band kept it simple with steady drumming, a repetitive bass line, and simple phrasing from Beck. Smith was the star on this one as she completely took over the song, delivering a masterpiece as her vocal range was impeccable, singing sultry verses and blistering choruses.

Moving right along, Beck went into “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” a tune composed by Jazz legend Charles Mingus as a tribute to another jazz legend, saxophonist Lester Young. Showing he is just as comfortable playing Jazz as he is Rock and Blues, Beck played the sax part from Mingus’ composition to perfection on electric guitar. At just about the halfway mark of the set, the song was ideally placed, allowing the crowd to catch their breath after a whirlwind first half. Beck then covered two immortals back to back as he took on Jimi Hendrix’ “Little Wing” and Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” An extended intro on “Little Wing” proved a great warm-up for another powerful performance from Hall. Beck played this one virtually note for note, opting not to extend the cut or stray from the original. When covering Hendrix, that is not as easy as it sounds, but he was able to replicate the wild sound of the man considered by most to be the greatest to ever strap on an electric guitar. Like on “ Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”, where the sax riff was recreated, here Beck, on guitar, played the clavinet riff made famous by Stevie Wonder. Once again, Beck showed his ability to play a multitude of styles as he tackled, quite well, one of the biggest hits from the world of Funk and R&B.

Not satisfied with merely covering one of the greatest Soul singers, Cooke, and one of the greatest guitarist who ever lived, Hendrix, Beck decided to take a stab at The Beatles and played his version of “A Day in the Life” from the band’s psychedelic masterpiece, 1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. As only he can do, rather than have actual vocals on the track, Beck sang with his guitar. With the band laying down the foundation, Beck expressed the words with his hands, bending out notes up and down the register, for a unique take on the traditional cover. To close the set, Beck did what he does best, and what he is most known for as he performed an old Blues standard, originally released in 1929 by Hambone Willie Newbern entitled “Rollin’ and Tumblin’,” a song covered by everyone from Johnny Winter, to Eric Clapton, to Cyndi Lauper. Here, Beck and his band exemplified the heavy electric Blues that took over the mid to late ’60s and eventually gave birth to Punk, Hard Rock, and Heavy Metal. As the band played, while Blues was the predominant sound, Beck echoed several other strains of music that have been born and evolved over the last fifty years.

Following with a two encore set, in a unique turn, Beck played the one hundred plus year old Irish ballad “Danny Boy.” Again with no lyrics, he let his guitar cry and moan the melancholy lyrics to the classic song usually reserved for memorials and funerals. Implementing the old adage that less is more, Beck made the crowd realize the equal importance of the space in between notes as the notes themselves as he gingerly made his way through the tune. Closing out the set with “Goin’ Down,” Beck did what he does best as he took the Blues classic and turned it on its ear with spaced out guitar play that at times was heavy, plodding, and at others was played at hyper speed, before falling back in line into the Blues-based heavy Rock that he helped pioneer.

It is hard to imagine the host of sub-genres of Rock-n-Roll would have ever come to fruition if not for the work of Jeff Beck. On this night at The Paramount, he and his bandmates were able to touch on a myriad of musical shapes, and they played all of them at a level most who stick to just one genre cannot even imagine. Being in the game for over fifty years has helped Beck embrace all that he has seen come and go over time. It has also allowed him to be a master of all trades and not just a jack. For a mind-bending live experience that will satisfy your craving for a mixed bag of music, look no further than Jeff Beck.

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Gerard Smith
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