Sunday, April 25, 2010

Jeff Beck at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, Houston

In an act of sheer craziness, I drove to Houston for the 2nd time in 3 days to see Jeff Beck.

My Past with Jeff Beck

Prior to this I had seen Jeff on double bills with Stevie Ray Vaughan around 1990, at Madison Square Garden, and with Carlos Santana at the UT Erwin Center, around 1995. For both of these shows, Terry Bozzio and Tony Hymas were the backing band.

The last time that I had seen him perform was at least a decade ago, at La Zona Rosa during SxSW. At that time, Jennifer Batten, was in his band, along with two other supporting players that I no longer remember. I remember that I didn't enjoy this show as much as the previous shows, because I felt that Jennifer's two handed tapping style didn't leave enough space for Jeff. After that, it seemed that he had faded into retirement.

Fast forward to 2009

I was supposed to see Vinnie Colaiuta perform with Chick Corea's and John McLaughlin's Five Peace Band. Vinnie however was AWOL, having been replaced by Brian Blades. I found out at the merch table that night, that Vinnie had left to join Jeff Beck's tour. Having been totally unaware that Jeff was touring, I quickly found the Live at Ronnie Scott's DVD. Jeff Back was back and I knew that I wanted to see him. Unfortunately, this tour came nowhere near TX, and had already headed across the Atlantic.

Early this year, when I saw the announcement for the date in Dallas, I was again disappointed, since I already had tickets to see Chick Corea, on that same night in Austin. Fortunately, fate intervened, and a Houston show was announced a few days later. There was much rejoicing, and later, much traveling.

The Opener - Gary Hoey

When I arrived at the Verizon, it was similar to the House of Blues, with maybe a few hundred more seats. Although it has the word Amphitheatre in the name, it is an indoor venue.

Shortly after taking our seats, instrumental guitarist Gary Hoey, took the stage. For some reason however, he chose to play acoustic steel string guitar, rather than electric. He was accompanied by an acoustic bass player. Unfortunately, Gary's set was generally uninteresting to me.

The Main Event - Jeff Beck

There was about 20 minute break after Gary left the stage, and then things got down to business. As Jeff and the band took the stage, I was a little surprised to discover that there was a female bass player, but it was not Tal Wilkenfeld, and that Vinnie Colaiuta was not playing drums.

As the night progressed, I found out that the backing band was:

  • Jason Rebello - Keyboards, who I did recognize from the Ronnie Scott DVD
  • Narada Michael Walden - the drummer from Blow by Blow himself
  • Rhonda Smith - Bass and Vocals, who also plays with Prince.

I estimate the band played for approximately 90 minutes, and that this set list is a fairly close approximation of what he played in Houston. Noticeably missing was material from the Jeff Beck Group era, Wired, Blow by Blow (other than Led Boots), and There and Back. It didn't matter, the show still kicked ass.

Jeff was at his finest on this night, and seemed to command the attention of everyone present. I also noticed that the volume from the PA was not deafening and was in fact comfortable, allowing Jeff to make very effective use of dynamics. His solo version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow was particularly powerful. In closing let me say that although I still want to see him play with Tal, Rhonda Smith was outstanding.

Jeff Beck
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