Saturday, December 01, 2007

I'm off home to practise!

Jeff Beck is probably the best electric guitarist that I will ever see.

I saw him at Ronnie Scott's club in London earlier this week- he was beyond extraordinary. For a start, half of those notes that he was playing don't appear to be on any of my guitars- or if they are, I can't find 'em (and I've looked. Trust me, I've looked). And the sounds that he got out of the damn thing aren't on them either; maybe you need his hands?!? With Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, Jason Robello on keyboards and Tal Wilkenfeld (an almost impossibly young-looking lady) on bass he began with 'Beck's Bolero', and from the first notes it couldn't have been anybody else playing- that's how good he is. For the next hour-and-a half the world stood still. Well, mine did anyway. I've got to say that I personally don't always like his music- a bit too jazzy, a bit too, well, clever for me (if you know what I mean), but that's not the point here. I've never seen the electric guitar played like this by anybody else- melody lines on harmonics bent in and out of tune with the tremolo arm, notes so high that they're actually above the conventional range of the instrument; using a slide with his right hand to play over the pick-ups, again producing sounds that most of us can't even imagine coming from a guitar let alone being able to work out how to play them (as the long-suffering Shirley put it, 'it sounds almost like whale-calls'- and it did), using the volume and tone controls to change the sound of adjacent notes so that no note sounded like the one before or after it- astonishing. Robert Plant was at the bar; Joss Stone got up to sing 'People Get Ready'-I'm told that the next night Eric Clapton got up and played some blues. That would have been worth seeing- but what we saw was worth seeing, in the way that seeing something that you'll never forget as long as you live is worth seeing, in the way that things that change your life are worth seeing. The set closed with 'A Day in the Life', a performance of such overwhelming power that I almost felt that they should have refused to do an encore- but 'Where were you' had me wipe a tear from my eye, such was the feeling of yearning that he managed to create. Well, that's what I got from it- I wonder what, or indeed who he was thinking of..?

Jeff Beck is probably the best electric guitarist that I will ever see.

Have you any idea how much that means to me?

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