One of the songs Jeff Beck and his band played during their encore last Saturday night at the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland was Sly and the Family Stone’s “I Want to Take You Higher.”
Well Jeff, you did.
I was uncharacteristically on the fence about going to the Jeff Beck concert (as well as several others this year), after investing pretty heavily in concerts over the last few years (I probably should be more frugal). However, I couldn’t pass up the two tickets my coworker offered me, since he was going out of town and had to miss the concert. I won’t hesitate again.
Sporting his shaggy dark hair, occasionally flashing a gorgeous grin to the crowd, and exuding his English rocker cool, the 66-year old (!!!) guitar legend casually moved around the music hall stage, effortlessly coaxing his shiny white Fender Stratocaster to sing. I guess that’s what happens after over forty years of perfecting his craft.
It wasn’t just the absolute skill that Beck displayed in his playing; it was also the power and passion that he conveyed through his instrument which really took me higher.
He made that guitar lie down, cry, plead and moan.
The four piece band – Beck on guitar, Rhonda Smith on bass, Narada Michael Walden on drums and Jason Rebello on keyboards – swelled the music hall with their enormous sound. Normally I don’t respond to many female musicians, but Smith impressed me with the way she commanded her instrument with swagger and sensuality. My eyes followed her as much as they followed Beck.
I loved Beck’s soulful and dynamic interpretations of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” the Impressions’ “People Get Ready” and The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.” It felt like the walls were literally doing to tumble down when the band kicked it into high gear for “I Want to Take You Higher.” Along with earlier songs from his catalog, he featured several songs from his 2010 album Emotion & Commotion (a fitting description for the show). Beck’s final emotional rendition of Puccini’s aria “Nessun Dorma,” which added a unique classical element to the rock/pop/soul/blues mix, had the audience on their feet in adoration. It was a diverse set list that really showed off Jeff Beck’s talent and combined a variety of songs in his catalog with tributes to his musical influences.
1. Plan B
3. Led Boots
4. Corpus Christi Carol
6. Mna Na Eireann
7. People Get Ready
8. You Never Know
9. Rollin’ and Tumblin’
10. Big Block
11. Over the Rainbow
12. Little Wing
13. Blue Wind
14. Dirty Mind
15. Brush with the Blues
16. A Day in the Life
17. How High the Moon
18. I Want to Take You Higher
19. Nessun Dorma
Here’s an excellent YouTube video capturing three songs from the concert: “Hammerhead,” “Little Wing” and “I Want to Take You Higher.”
Here’s another video featuring “Nessun Dorma”.