Jeff Beck soars at the Pavilion

A review of Jeff Beck at the Bank of America Pavilion on June 3, 2010

, Contributing Writer

It was a rainy Thursday evening in Boston, but the sun broke through the clouds just in time to see guitar legend Jeff Beck unleash his signature Fender Stratocaster before the crowd gathered at the Bank of America Pavilion. Amid cheers, frenzied applause, and sporadic chants of “beat L.A.” – though the Celtics would ultimately drop Game 1 of the NBA Finals to the Lakers – Beck proved he still has the talent and fretwork that placed him in the ranks of Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page.

Beck jumped right into things, opening with the razzling riffs of “Eternity’s Breath”. It quickly became obvious that the entire band was as into it as the lively crowd, with bassist Rhonda Smith swaying her hips back and forth and Narada Michael Walden, in his sparkling black-and-purple vest, drumming with a ferocity reminiscent of Marvel Comic’s The Thing. Beck carried the intensity over into “Led Boots”, and then slowed things down with “Stratus”. Fans took a seat as they watched him play with only a keyboard accompaniment from Jason Rebello, but stared in rapt fascination as he navigated through the slow, soulful solo.

Then it was right back to another amazing display of nimble fretwork with “Hammerhead”, from Beck’s newly released album Emotion & Commotion. Riding the crowd’s excitement, he took a moment to address fans and announce his appreciation to be back in Boston, and then it was Rhonda Smith’s time to shine. She did not disappoint; hammering on the strings and drumming on the bass’s wooden body, Smith delivered a lively, cool, and funky solo that had the crowd on its feet, dancing and clapping along. A few songs later, Beck presented “Never Alone”, another instrumental from his new album. When the song concluded, he threw his arms up in the air with a smile, as if to say, “What do you guys think?” The crowd’s response was a more than sufficient answer.

The highlight of the night came with “Big Block”, as Beck awed fans with his roaring chords and deft fretwork. The talent, dexterity, and passion with which his hands flew over the white Stratocaster showed expertise that lesser guitarists can only dream of. Using the vibrato bar as naturally as if it were an extension of his own hand, he went as far as to snake his left arm under the guitar’s neck to reach the highest frets, stretching the instrument to its limits. It was not long until he enraptured the crowd again, removing the slide from his finger to tap out an enthralling melody in “Angel Footsteps”.

For diehard Beck fans, the set also included rarities such as “Blast”, “Dirty Mind”, and “Brush With The Blues”. After “Higher”, which featured vocals from Smith, Beck covered the Beatles’ “A Day In The Life” before thanking his band members and the crowd, then exiting the stage. He returned after several minutes of frenzied cheering with a grin on his face and a guitar in his hands for a two-song encore. After telling fans that he would like to pay tribute to the “fantastic” Les Paul, he did exactly that, creating a lively melody with complementation from recorded vocals. Then it was one more song from Emotion & Commotion as he played “Nessun Dorma”, and Beck again left the stage, this time leaving the wildly excited and satisfied audience with their fill of the legend’s riffs and melodies.

It would have been nice to see a song or two dedicated to Walden’s drumming or Rebello on the keyboard. While their presence was consistently heard, neither had a chance to play in the spotlight as Smith did. But the crowd came to see Jeff Beck and his guitar, and that’s what they got; talents like his, Clapton’s, or Page’s are few and far between, and it was an excellent opportunity to see what the electric guitar was created to do.

The Derek Trucks and the Susan Tedeschi Band, featuring the husband and wife team put on a rocking opening set with their talented band. Massachusetts native Tedeschi’s grungy vocals combined with Allman Brothers’ guitarist Trucks’s extraordinary fretwork, which capitalized on his use of the slide, made for a thrilling start to the night. “Coming Home”, which featured back-and-forth solos between Tedeschi, Trucks, and bassist Oteil Burbridge, even had the elderly among the fans up and dancing before Beck took the stage.

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