2011 Concert Season: Jeff Beck

Jeff BeckJeff Beck World Tour 2011
Pittsburgh, PA –
April 23, 2011

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.

Set List

1. Plan B
2. Stratus
3. Led Boots
4. Corpus Christi Carol
5. Hammerhead
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”.


The Friendship: Wordsworth and Coleridge

I’m currently reading The Friendship: Wordsworth and Coleridge by Adam Sisman.

The Friendship: Wordsworth and Coleridge

Sisman tells the story of the close friendship and creative partnership between English Romantic poets William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  I bought the book when it was first published in 2006, but I finally feel like now is the right time to read it.  It’s a great read so far – it recounts the two poets’ personal histories in post-French Revolution Europe and how they came to meet each other and eventually collaborate on Lyrical Ballads (1798), a canonical collection of poetry generally considered the impetus for the English Romantic movement in literature.

From the Introduction:

“The names of Wordsworth and Coleridge have been linked ever since. They have passed into legend as a pair, like Boswell and Johnson, or Lennon and McCartney . The myth making began while they were still living, and has continued uninterrupted. The image of these two young geniuses, the progenitors of English Romanticism, roaming the Quantock Hills in an ecstasy of shared understanding and creative fulfillment, is irresistibly romantic. Their subsequent estrangement, quarrel, and superficial reconciliation complete a story as poignant as any love affair.”

Rediscovering American History in My Backyard

Upcoming events at local historical sites have rekindled my interest in colonial American history.  The last time I had an opportunity to study American history in-depth was probably during high school.  I’ve decided that it’s time to rediscover Pennsylvania places, people and events that changed the fate of this country by visiting Fort Ligonier and a new Ben Franklin exhibit at Pittsburgh’s Senator John Heinz History Center, both opening this month.

My feature on Fort Ligonier’s upcoming events appeared in the Latrobe Bulletin this past weekend (“Fort Ligonier celebrates historical leaders during busiest season”).  This season, the organization plans to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the coronation of King George III, who is considered “America’s last king.”   The Fort will also celebrate another famous George with a visit from George Washington, as portrayed by renowned historical actor Dean MalissaThe Washington Collection at the Fort’s museum includes a pair of Saddle Pistols (a gift from the Marquis de La Fayette during the American Revolution), an 11-page autobiographical document describing Washington’s experiences in Southwestern Pennsylvania during the French and Indian War and an original nineteenth century painting by Rembrandt Peale depicting the young colonel in his military uniform.  In addition, Fort Ligonier will open their new exhibit on the Seven Years’ War and will continue their popular battle reenactments throughout the season, culminating with the annual Fort Ligonier Days this fall.

I’m really looking forward to checking out Ben Franklin: In Search of a Better World, which opens at the Senator John Heinz History Center on Saturday, April 16th.

Ben Franklin (1706-1790)

Ben Franklin (1706-1790)

This  new exhibit highlights Ben Franklin‘s achievements as a Founding Father, statesman, inventor and humorist.  Along with Franklin’s personal effects and inventions, the exhibition will also feature a section related to his  experiences in Southwestern PA during the French and Indian War.  It sounds like it will be an extensive and eye-opening exhibition.   I highly recommend purchasing a membership to the history center – For me, it’s invaluable to be able to check out new exhibits when they open, take advantage of invitations to special events and use the library and archives on my lunch hour.

From Wordsworth to Wilson

Since April is National Poetry Month, I thought I would share my favorite poem from my favorite poet, William Wordsworth, a major poet of the Romantic Age in England (probably my favorite period in literary and art history) .

William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

One of my future travel destinations is Dove Cottage, located on the edge of the village of Grasmere in England’s Lake District, where Wordsworth made his home from 1799-1808.

Dove Cottage

During his residency at Dove Cottage, Wordsworth composed much of his celebrated poetry, including my favorite poem, which was written on March 26, 1802.

My Heart Leaps Up (Also known as The Rainbow)

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The child is father of the man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

The poem is brief yet extremely powerful.  I designed, created and framed a cross-stitch pattern of the poem, which I look at every day to remind myself never to lose my sense of wonder about nature and an appreciation for the simple things in life.

The connections you can make between literature and music, both classic and modern, are amazing.  Brian Wilson, one of my absolute favorite songwriters (he’s a genius), and lyricist Van Dyke Parks were inspired by Wordsworth and used the line “child is father of the man” in a song for The Beach Boys‘ legendary abandoned album, SMiLE.  Wilson released a newly recorded version of the album in 2004, which I highly recommend.  The SMiLE Sessions, a much-anticipated complilation of  The Beach Boys’ original studio sessions as well as a fully assembled album, will be released in 2011. (I can’t wait!!!)

Original SMiLE album cover

“Child is Father of the Man” – From Brian Wilson’s SMiLE (2004)

The line also appears in the coda of The Beach Boys’ song “Surf’s Up,” planned for the 1967 SMiLE, but eventually included on The Beach Boys’ 1971 album Surf’s Up and also on Wilson’s SMiLE (2004).

“Surf’s Up” – From The Beach Boys’ Surf’s Up (1971)