Concerts: Jeff Beck Live in Chicago

Jeff Beck has been out on the road through much of the U.S. the past month. He played dates throughout the Northeast and South beginning mid-April, then did a handful of make-up shows from last summer’s co-headlining jaunt with ZZ Top. He’s wrapping up his final few weeks of a solo tour May 23 in Minneapolis, but don’t be surprised to see more dates later this summer or into the fall. He seems to want to play more these days, but that spirit seems to come and go from Mr. Beck -- sometimes almost on a whim.

Jeff BeckGuitar.com caught up with the guitar legend in Chicago May 21 for a show at the nearly full 3,600-seat Chicago Theatre. The performance came in at about an hour and 40 minutes, and the crowd was very vocal in showing their appreciation. The guitarist seemed to be relaxed, smiling often, even thanking the crowd through the mic at the end of the performance, though he let his guitar do the talking the rest of the night.

Beck must have been eager to perform because he actually started the show about 10 minutes early (which caught all the photogs and folks at the bar by surprise). The setlist touched on songs from a wide swath of the guitar legend’s career, including material from the early and mid-70s, covers of favorite blues and funk songs, renditions of Beatles and Hendrix classics, and of course a tribute to the late B.B. King.

Highlights of the performance included a short version of “‘Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers,” a cover of the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life,” and a raucous version of the Muddy Waters’ classic “Rollin’ And Tumblin’.” The crowd screamed and yelled when they recognized Beck getting into the Jimi Hendrix classic “Little Wing,” and gave a loud approval of “Superstition.”

Jeff BeckThe warbling tones of Beck’s whammy-laden, volume-swelling notes punctuated some of his best lines. Beck played a couple of different Strats during the concert -- including one with a reverse headstock -- through one Marshall half-stack.

The band included the same lineup that he took out during much of 2014: former Wet Willie vocalist Jimmy Hall; former Prince bassist Rhonda Smith; former drummer for Pat Metheny and Joe Zawinul, Jonathan Joseph; and world-music specialist Nicolas Meier on guitar. In fact Meier wowed the crowd with some serious flamenco tinged playing on a couple of tunes, including one song on which he played 12-string.

After being called back out for an encore Beck wrapped up the show with a run-through of his Jeff Beck Group mainstay,“Goin’ Down,” and a not-unexpected tribute to B.B. King on a touching cover of “The Thrill is Gone.” 

Watch Jeff Beck perform “‘Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” with Eric Clapton explaining Jeff's guitar style: 

 

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