Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater, Austin, TX, July 26, 2018
Review by Stacey Lovett and Photography by Jim Chapin
Austin was lucky enough to be added as one of four solo shows extending guitar hero, Jeff Beck’s, summer “Stars Align” package tour. Although he didn’t bring along Ann Wilson or Paul Rodgers to ACL Live, he showcased the power and capacity behind his own name – which needed no introduction – and featured a stage full of strong talent that delivered an absolute powerhouse of a show.
Beck came in hard and heavy with “Pull It,” each note from his guitar just singing out and feeding the audience everything they wanted from this eight-time Grammy award winning artist. His accolades and elite status in the music world and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame didn’t define his stage presence– there was no over the top showmanship in his performance, he was simply all about the art of the music. Calling in bursts of energy from the audience during riffs on “Stratus” Jeff Beck threw his hands in the air feeding off of the cheers and creating even more of a synergy with his band – especially drummer Vinnie Colaiuta – as he pounded out the ending with energetic flair. Bassist Rhonda Smith undoubtedly made herself known on stage with her funky melodic solos throughout the show with an endurance of soul.
Jimmy Hall came out on stage and joined on vocals for “Morning Dew,” fusing the passion of his voice with the fury and power of Beck’s guitar, transcending the performance into the presence of the music and more of a feel over the look onstage. Beck & Hall continued their duet of emotion with an Otis Redding cover of “I Have to Laugh” and with a set list comprised almost entirely of covers, Jeff Beck presented his own edge on the variety of tunes, displaying his expressive shredding and connection to the art. He held a rather stoic presence on stage behind his guitar almost letting it solely take the spotlight as he conducted the choreography of the night’s entertainment. While Colaiuta’s drums fueled his guitar on the heavier rock numbers, cellist Vanessa Freebairn-Smith lent her somber power and beauty of her sound to tango with the electric story he told.
As Jeff Beck carries the title of one of the top 100 greatest guitar players of all time, it doesn’t take his rendition of “Little Wing” to prove his capabilities, but how he effortlessly transmitted pure melodic bliss in the flow that both Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix himself achieved with the song proves his innate ability alongside his innovative ways to change yet honor a song. Jimmy Hall continued with his lyrical accent tapping into the emotion of “A Change is Gonna Come” really unleashing the performance aspect with gospel-like passion.
In Jeff Beck’s performance, beyond his dramatic fretwork and power shredding, beyond all of the technical splendor he brings to the stage, he presents an almost operatic sense to his show, he transmits a poetic tale through his guitar with an ability to say so much instrumentally. He becomes the conductor of an electric orchestra tethering his band-mates on different levels in an endurance of talent, breaking his stoicism with a brief smile whenever they pick up and run on the same vibe. His renditions aren’t just covers but elaborate the musician’s story. Beck is a musician who can hit home with both artist and fans with his talent and performance, and wrapped up his set paying homage to Stevie Wonder and The Beatles before gently laying down his guitar on stage. As a man of few words throughout the show, he then finally spoke a few, humbly, to introduce his band and thanked the audience with heartfelt words.
The two-song encore reiterated the eccentricity of the set, joining once more in the emotional fluidity of strings with the cello and guitar, then brought everyone back out as fans flooded the stage for one last burst of unified gusto from the talented lot.
Jeff Beck is undoubtedly an animal on the ax and builds a great sense of musical fraternity on stage. His deep inspirations paired with dynamic presentations curate a show truly worth experiencing and becoming subjected to the magic of music from this remarkable artist’s perspective.