Jeff Beck. At the Arlington Theatre, Tuesday, September

Reviewed by Josef Woodard

Jeff-Beck.jpgNobody can make an electric guitar roar,
sing, tease, and seduce like Jeff Beck can, especially when he’s
on. When Beck showed up at the Arlington last week — the
perennially mop-topped, irreverent pseudo adolescent at age 62 — he
was more on than at any of his Bowl shows over the years. He
supplied a fairly overpowering presence and one of the greatest
rock shows we’re likely to see in town this year. Even after all
these years, Beck blows everybody out of the room, making it seem
that he still has the inside track on what makes this instrument so
potentially powerful and eloquent. Using his fingers — no pick
necessary — and hands with a remarkable deftness and delicacy, Beck
manipulated his Stratocaster-and-Marshalls into unplumbed depths of
nuance, expressive real estate he virtually owns.

He uses a whammy bar with alarming subtlety, attacks the strings
from different angles, slips in slide passages (at one point
creeping up into the stratospheric range, but elegantly), and can
coax overtones. Maybe it’s the hot-rodder within, the enthusiasm
for tinkering with vintage cars as much as — if not more
than — being a public rock god, that gives him a keen appreciation
of the detail work required to make machinery hum. And with ace
bandmates like drummer Vinnie Coliuta — articulate rolling
thunder — and topnotch keyboardist Jason Rebello (heard previously
in town with Sting), Beck shone with extra finesse and fire.

Beck is in a nostalgic mood on this tour, leaping backward over
recent albums in favor of material from such masterpieces as Blow
by Blow and Wired. He played “Beck’s Bolero” and rock-jazz classics
like “Freeway Jam,” “Led Boots,” and “Star Cycle.” Down and dirty
but also scarily controlled vocalist Beth Hart belted out oldies
like “You Shook Me” and “Going Down” with a rough tone, quivery
vibrato, and wildcat charisma.

There’s a funny-funky track on 2003’s Jeff, “Grease Monkey,” on
which a female voice sexily taunts, “Hey, grease monkey, show me
what you got.” What this grease monkey’s got is the way of a true
musical poet, on an instrument not usually known for much more than
grease and hubris.


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