Beck lights up Bluesfest stage

CENTRE STAGE: Jeff Beck tears it up on guitar in the Crossroads Tent at the Byron Bay Bluesfest on Saturday night.
CENTRE STAGE: Jeff Beck tears it up on guitar in the Crossroads Tent at the Byron Bay Bluesfest on Saturday night. Marc Stapelberg

FROM the first ominous chords from his white Stratocaster, the wayward son of the 60s British blues explosion had the Crossroads Tent crowd riveted on Saturday night.

Every inch the rock star - bejewelled wrist, shades, puffy shirt - Jeff Beck let his fingers do the talking, moving all over the fretboard, thumb doing the heavy lifting, sending us into guitar virtuoso heaven.

The man Clapton and Keith Richards look up to wasn't the only guitar wonder on the stage. For the first time he's recruited a second axe-man, Nicholas Meier, who provided a light, exotic accompaniment to Beck's heavier noise, and an especially lyrical intro to Hendrix's Little Wing.

The very funky bass player Rhonda Smith took care of what little vocal work there was, including the blues number that began the encore, a meld of Rolling and Tumbling and Dust My Broom.

Other recognisable tunes included Danny Boy, slowed down to a syrupy groove but managing to retain that song's pathos.

There was a great tribute to a great song, The Beatles' A Day in the Life, with suitable crashing crescendo, and a climax featuring Joss Stone putting every ounce of her soul into I Put a Spell on You.

Beck made the 90 minutes go by too fast. The lucidity of his playing, the timbre and range were exquisite at times.

In a festival line-up featuring a good many serious guitar heroes, he was outstanding.


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