Jeff Beck and Buddy Guy are two of the greatest guitar players alive, and they have been since the '60s. Think about that for a minute. It has been over 50 years since they each established themselves as top level international superstars, and they're both still going strong.
Earlier this week, the two gunslingers kicked off their co-headlining North American tour at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York. It was a night of fantastic music, good vibes, and surprisingly high energy from a couple of guys who are now in their 70s.
Buddy Guy is now 79-years-old, but you wouldn't know it by the way he performs on stage. He's got as much energy, passion, and charisma as just about any performer on the planet.
Not only can the man still play guitar at an extremely high level, but his singing is as good as ever, and his stage presence was off the charts. After opening up with a powerful version of "Damn Right I've Got the Blues," Buddy was cracking jokes left and right. No topic was off limits, from politics to sex, and it was all lighthearted and fun.
Buddy's band for this tour features Ric Jaz on guitar, Tim Austin on drums, Orlando J. Wright on bass, and Marty Sammon on piano. They proved themselves to be a well oiled machine that kept things grooving and fresh from start to finish.
One of the highlights of the night was when Buddy left the stage and played guitar while walking down the aisles of the Capitol Theatre during the song "Someone Else Is Steppin' In." At first, there was confusion when he disappeared from the stage, but as the audience realized that he was walking around there was contagious excitement as people strained to get a good view and pulled out cameras to take pictures.
Be sure to check out Buddy Guy's excellent 2015 album, Born To Play Guitar.
Jeff Beck has gone through several distinct phases in his career, from pushing The Yardbirds towards psychedelic pop in the '60s to re-defining the British blues with the Jeff Beck Group, and then veering towards jazz fusion and instrumental rock.
On July 15, 2016, J.B. released a concept album called loud Hailer that is easily the most political record he has ever made. (Check out my review of the album for more information about that.) In a press release, he shared his inspiration for the LP:
I really wanted to make a statement about some of the nasty things I see going on in the world today, and I loved the idea of being at a rally and using this loud device to shout my point of view.
For Loud Hailer, he collaborated with the UK rock duo going by the name of Bones which is Rosie Bones on vocals and Carmen Vandenberg on guitar. This concert was their first public performance together, and they were rounded out by bassist Rhonda Smith, drummer Jonathan Joseph, and vocalist Jimmy Hall of the Alabama-based rock band Wet Willie.
To open the concert, the band jammed out a bit before Rosie Bones emerged with a megaphone and proceeded to sing through it as she walked down an aisle through the seated audience. It was a bit of guerilla rock & roll that got things off to an interesting start.
As the concert went on, Rosie left the stage and the band played a couple classic instrumentals before she rejoined them for a couple more Loud Hailer tunes.
After that, there was another instrumental and then Jimmy Hall came out and sang a couple classics that resonated with the crowd: "Morning Dew" by Bonnie Dobson (which Jeff Beck included on his 1968 album Truth and local favorites the Grateful Dead helped to popularize before that) and "A Change Is Gonna Come" by Sam Cooke. The energy was great, and the social awareness was apparent. Sam Cooke's song is remembered as one of the great Civil Rights anthems, and sadly that battle is still raging to this day.
The band did a couple more instrumentals and then Rosie came back up for the show-stopping 1-2 punch of "O.I.L." and "Scared For The Children." As they transitioned back-and-forth between Rosie on vocals, Jimmy on vocals, and instrumentals, things sometimes felt a little disjointed but overall the balance worked.
You could tell that Jeff Beck wanted to please his fans, and many in the audience were clearly enjoying the songs that featured his dazzling guitar playing front and center. By the end of the set, the full band was all on stage, vibing off each other and clearly having a lot of fun.
This was the first performance from Jeff Beck's new band, but you couldn't tell until he mentioned that fact at the end of the show as they all took a bow. Not to be lost in all this was Jeff Beck's guitar playing. He's still got his unique set of skills that translate raw energy into sounds that are entirely his own.
Now more than ever Jeff Beck seems inspired to have his music reflect a social consciousness, and as the world continues to reel from terrorist attacks, police brutality, constant war, and politicians pushing hateful agendas, the Capitol Theatre audience was treated to a night of peace, love, and beautiful music.
All photos by Brad Bershad © Zumic, 2016