O2 Academy, Bournemouth

To say Jeff Beck is a talented guitarist would be an understatement, to say he is a talented composer would not do the man justice and to say he puts on a good show…would be something I couldn’t really comment before Saturday night. I’ve never seen him live before, whether on TV, in concert, at festivals or even on YouTube, so I had no expectations going into this gig. Instrumental rock/blues isn’t big on the radio or anything, however Beck has a loyal following which I noticed right away by the queue out of the O2 Academy doors.

It’s a fairly chilled out atmosphere with people standing chatting with whoever they are with. Whether that is a father and son, husband and wife and even young couples (or even a couple of music nerds with questionable facial hair!) make up the close to capacity crowd. I was surprised by the mix, but maybe like me there were a few curious musical minds out there who wanted to see what Mr. Beck had to offer.

The lights come up, Jeff Beck and his band casually take the stage with the main man himself taking front and centre stage. Right from the first note it’s precise and it’s evident right away that each member of the band around him are all extremely talented. For the first couple of songs though this didn’t really translate into something exciting or special. It almost seemed like the band and especially Beck were going through the motions and that there wasn’t any passion or excitement coming from the stage.

This seemed to change with an announcement from Beck that he messed up the set list and they forgot to play a song. So they decided to play what they missed: ‘Corpus Christi Carol’. A haunting and beautiful piece of guitar work that just shifted the atmosphere up a gear and everyone’s attention was in one place and on one man. That’s all it took to turn this gig around as they just seemed to go from strength to strength.

With an almost exclusively instrumental set, it’s hard to find those sing-a-long moments that get everyone involved and I think he realised that and was clever to throw in a cover or two. One cover being a unique cover of ‘Over The Rainbow’ that almost sounded like it was written for guitar. Renditions of ‘A Day In The Life’ and ‘Little Wing’ soared from the stage with relative ease and with plenty of trademark Beck style and technique.

The final cover and final song really made the evening and it was a special end to a fantastic evening. It takes a few bars, but everyone soon picks up that he is indeed launching into ‘Nessum Dorma’. As the song starts to build he misses a note which brings the great man to his knees in despair. However he picks up fairly quickly and in true rock and roll fashion plays from his knees this powerful classic. What really struck me was the humility of a man who has been an international guitar legend for over 50 years and yet still shows his disappointment in making a mistake. It’s amazing how a mistake actually brought up one of the biggest cheers and round of applause of the night in support for the man we all came to see.

It was a special night with an extra special performance from one of music’s unsung heroes. He may not have the fame and notoriety of those he has worked with (Rod Stewart and Jimmy Page to name just a few) but he certainly has the musical genius and class that counts for more than record sales ever could.


Pictures by Jon.

Words By Tom.

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