sat 20/01/2018

Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton, O2 Arena | reviews, news & interviews

Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton, O2 Arena

Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton, O2 Arena

British guitar legends reunite to rock the O2

Jeff Beck at the O2: yes, it's a Guitar Hero

Along with the compact disc and record company profits, the Guitar Hero has become virtually extinct in the modern era. Thus, finding two gilt-edged specimens of this increasingly scarce breed sharing a stage is gold dust indeed. Both of them have been drenched in accolades, Jeff Beck having been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice and Eric Clapton three times.

Beck replaced Clapton in the Yardbirds in 1965 after "God" decided that the group were becoming too commercial and un-bluesy, but while Clapton has remained stubbornly true to his blues calling over the decades, Beck has evolved in all kinds of directions. His CV encompasses hard rock, jazz-rock fusion and even a bespoke version of classical crossover, while his technical prowess on his instrument continues to trample new frontiers.

Thus, the individual sets played by each of them presented two dramatically different musicians. Beck, still looking trim and gunslinger-ish at 65 (though his luxuriant head of jet-black hair must inevitably arouse suspicion), was accompanied by a fiery and versatile trio comprising bassist Rhonda Smith, keyboards whizz Jason Rebello and the massively authoritative drummer Narada Michael Walden, as well as a platoon of string players. Not that there was any doubt that Beck was in charge, as he blitzed the cavernous O2 with the machine-gun riffs of "Led Boots", the complex funk-rock of "Hammerhead" (one of several tracks from his forthcoming album, Emotion & Commotion) or the crunching rhythms of "Big Block".

But, armed with an intricate thumb and finger technique, he explored a variety of contrasting  textures too. For the Celtic-influenced "Mna Na" he was joined by Sharon Corr on violin, adjusting the touch and tone of his guitar playing accordingly. His delicate instrumental arrangement of Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready" was as evocative as it was brief, while "There's No Other Me" gave a barefoot Joss Stone an opportunity to unleash her inner soul diva with impressive force. They followed that with a version of "I Put A Spell On You", Stone smouldering her way through the lyric while band and string section surged beneath her. Beck wrapped up his set with an arrangement of the Beatles' "A Day in the Life", a riot of mood-changes, swirling strings and tumultuous chords, especially the one that put the full stop on the end (Clapton and Beck, pictured below).

Clappola_smallClapton, on the other hand, played a batch of songs that have been at the core of his repertoire for years, but with an unmistakeable sense of purpose. It was Keith Richards who once commented that Eric can sometimes use a motivational boot up the backside, and sharing a bill with the on-form Beck may have given him just that.

He warmed up with some acoustic pieces, though why he thinks "Layla" works as slowed-down easy listening remains unfathomable, before picking up a blue Stratocaster and cutting loose on a storming "Tell the Truth".

Sometimes he plays it fast, but this was the slower version, giving him space to alternate between piercing solos and fat, crunchy rhythm chords. A taut and focused "Key to the Highway" followed, given an extra boost by his pair of female backing singers. He launched "I Shot the Sheriff" with an extended guitar introduction as the band generated a tough reggae groove, miles removed from Clapton's laid-back original recording. They dropped back for Clapton's pivotal solo, which allowed him to rebuild the pressure towards a final crescendo. Sadly, he spoiled some of the good work with the mawkish "Wonderful Tonight", before galloping to the finishing tape with "Cocaine" and "Crossroads".

After all this, it wasn't much of a surprise that the pair's joint final set was somewhat anti-climactic, as they traded barrages of soloing across a selection of mostly traditional blues pieces (and a schlocky "Moon River", crooned winsomely by Clapton). Beck's hyper-technical fretwork and deft use of the tremolo arm contrasted with Clapton's more traditional approach, which merely emphasised that despite some shared history, these two have never been pursuing the same objectives.

Comments

Lets not pay such deference to these guys reputations. This was an excruciatingly dull gig lacking in any real sence of verve or soul. Beck was laboured, EC has become a cabaret act and the stage set was fitting of an X factor final. Why EC thinks that the woefully banal Wonderful Tonight should be included in a set is quite beyond me, Macca might as well include The Frog Chorus in his own set for the next tour. I've heard Cale's Cocaine played a hundred times better by pub bands. Bland overproduced cack to be enjoyed by middle aged accountants who have just got theiir first Harley's. eeeurggh!

Lad, you should stick to the pubs then. Perhaps, these level of performance is too complicated to your simple ear. Standing ovations were properly displayed throughout the evening! Fantastic show given by genius superb musicians! Peace!

I took my friend for his 40th birthday and wholeheartedly agree with Mike (above). You have to think it's all about the money for EC - he doesn't need to replay these songs that have been hauled out time out of number. If there's still something alive in his core about the music, what's with hearing the greatest hits? If you can't take a few "risks" at his age then when?! As those new to his shows my friend and I held out hope for some inspirational blues. Watching him play (and sweat!) with Buddy Guy on the South Bank Show's Ronnie Scott's gig was something to behold. There were flashes of brilliance but it was borne out of years of doing this kind of stuff. We got almost as much of a thrill from seeing Brian May in the arena as we did from watching the music.

Whilst it is quite touching to be so deeply loyal to the atrists you so admire a little obectivity might be in order. If standing ovations were the yardstick of musical genius then there are indeed some mighty talents appearing on the likes of X factor etc. Level of performance? You might need to be a little more adventurous in your choice of future gigs. There's a big big world out there beyond the confines the money pit that is the O2. Try it sometime. Have you listened to JJ Cales original of Cocaine? Or even perhaps EC's early cover? Last nights live version was assault and battery with no finesse or subtlety which was pretty typical of EC's strat set. You surely can't be an admirer of the trite Wonderful Tonight can you. Perhaps it is the complexity of the lyrics that so captivates you? Bless.

I'm proud to be a part of this history! love, Narada

It all makes me feel a lot better about seeing Mr Beck here in Sydney at a small, sweaty venue in a few weeks. Mr. Beck is not made for Arenas, he is made for up close so you can watch the technique and be amazed at the talent, which he has in spades! Last time I saw Mr. Clapton live about two years ago he was blown off the stage by his own guitarists (Mr. Trucks and Mr. Bramhall) and only came alive to play an impassioned and beautiful 'Little Wing'. The sooner he takes that woeful 'Wonderful Tonight' out and shoots it the better!

the point remains- EC & JB are not only the current leaders of guitar play, and when I say this I mean good old fashioned guitars, people who can create music, they are musicians,able to perform and whatever feelings will the audience experience- negative or positive- lets be honest here, can anybody replace them? can anyone who critises them do ANY better? To be respectful to talent and dedication is a MUST. i had a sensational time on the 14 feb experienced my dream come true and after seeing and hearing them both play i can admitt there was a lot of miscomprehension from the audience- because people lacked understanding to the actual performance they looked but couldnt see they listened but couldnt hear what actually happened on the stage was ART. It was amazing chemistry between the band of JB and him- there were many mesmerizing moments- but people are just too ignoranty to distinguish it. audience who wants flash superficial shows need to go and see Pink, Madonna or some other pop concert. THIS WAS ABOUT THE SOUNDS PRODUCED FROM GUITARS AND THAT WAS EXCEPTIONAL!!!!

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