In concert: Jeff Beck at Wolf Trap
By Mike Joyce
You can count on British rock guitarist Jeff Beck to serve up two things in concert - impeccable musicianship and an improbable selection of tunes. That alone was enough to generate numerous standing ovations when the 65 year old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer fronted a thundering quartet at Wolf Trap on Monday night.
Beck's virtuosity was indeed breathtaking at times, especially when the din of Stratocaster-driven power chords gave way to exquisitely sustained melodic arcs, subtle harmonic nuances and an unusually colorful assortment of rhythmic textures and tweaks. Beck doesn't use a pick - just his fingers and whammy bar, which is one of the reasons why he has such a distinctive and expressive sound.
Over of the course of a dozen and a half tunes, drummer Narada Michael Walden, bassist Rhonda Smith and keyboardist Jason Rebello specialized in the sharply syncopated funk thrust showcased on Beck's recent CD "Emotion & Commotion." But there were mood shifts aplenty, with engaging or novel arrangements of "People Get Ready," "A Day In the Life" and "I Want To Take You Higher." (And let's face, if you have to hear Beck indulge his taste for sentimental pop, listening to him play "Over The Rainbow" in a summery, outdoors setting isn't a bad way to go.)
When he returned for the inevitable encores, Beck was toting a Les Paul guitar. He saluted Paul, the late guitarist and inventor, with an appropriately nimble and multi-layered version of "How High The Moon." A flamboyant flourish brought the show to a close, with the band performing "Nessun Dorma," as if arranged for Beck's own pops symphony.
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