Thursday, July 23, 2009

Concert Review: Jeff Beck - Ulster Hall, Belfast - 30 June 2009

Belfast is anything but dull. The city centre oscillates between menace and refurbished high culture. The recently renovated Ulster Hall is a fitting venue for Jeff Beck's first concert in Ireland. The Victorian Hall has played host to some of the finest artists and groups to grace this planet, including Rory Gallagher, Taste, Led Zeppelin, The Kinks, and Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green.

I'm sitting in the sixth row - centre stage - I give in to nostalgia, and think of some of the great concerts I have experienced at this venue. I visualise the artists, and hear fragments of their music with each beat of my pulse. After the support act, I believe the absence of a vocalist will not be missed when the main act takes to the stage. The auditorium is silent, in semi-darkness; the stage looks larger. I gaze at the red backdrop which creates a sunken world of calm and expectation. The lights dim.

Tonight a sold-out audience is treated to an absorbing performance by Jeff Beck and his powerhouse of a band incorporating drummer, Vinnie Colaiuta; keyboardist, Jason Rebello; and bass guitarist, Tal Wilkenfeld. Time to forget the 'Credit Bubble', the Internet, DVDs, CDs, vinyl: most fans want to see their musical heroes in the flesh. And there is no substitute for the atmosphere, tension, and emotion, an inspired and engaging band can generate live in concert.

The success of Jeff's recent release, 'Jeff Beck: Performing This Week - Live At Ronnie Scott's' on DVD, Blu-Ray and CD, the celebrated performance at the "Crossroads Guitar Festival' in Chicago, 2007," Jeff's induction into the "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame" on 4 April 2009, and new management - Harvey Goldsmith - have helped to invigorate Jeff's career, and standing in the music industry.

Tonight, Jeff walks onto the stage dressed in black, with a white scarf draped around his neck, and cradling his cream and white stratocaster. The applause is deafening, heartfelt. I believe Jeff and the band are genuinely taken aback by the warm reception. The band starts the performance with 'Becks Bolero' and it is clear the sound balance is excellent, and each band member is crystal clear in the mix. Somehow, Jeff and his band make the music sound fresh, as if woven for the first time.

What makes a good performance? Perhaps, dialogue between the musicians on stage. While creating their own voice and space - each musician, tonight - seems to bend and shape the music to maximum effect, and the combined output goes straight to your emotions, your soul. Something, not all musicians achieve.

Vinnie and Tal begin the hypnotic rhythm to 'Pump', and Tal's bass sound is beautifully warm; you could listen to it all night. A lot of people comment on her playing - which speaks for itself - but the diverse tones she gets from her bass, amps, and effects pedals are astounding. During the sixteen-number set it is evident the deep intuitive skills displayed by Vinnie, Tal, and Jason, provide a strong canvas for Jeff to paint a colourful array of sounds from his guitar.

Jeff plays with warmth, finesse, and an impish quality which permeates the group, and creates an extraordinary bond with the audience. The band truly seem astounded by the warm reception after each song, and exchange smiles. A great version of 'You Never Know ' follows, which sets the high standard of musicianship, and sound, that Jeff and his band reach during the rest of the performance.

Who could not be moved by the sublime 'Cause We've Ended as Lovers' - beautiful sounds and melodies emanating from Jeff's guitar, and inspired soloing by Tal. It digs deep into the twilight room of the soul, creating a dizzy sense of magic.

Does music get better than this? I doubt it. During the set Jeff moves around the stage, sometimes changing direction when the music changes course. Periodically, he exchanges a cheerful smile with a fellow band member, and continues to play his guitar with a naturalness few guitarist's attain. Each song was a highlight.

Jeff and his band were visibly moved by the two 'five minute' standing ovations they received.

After the concert Jeff, Tal, Jason and Vinnie are generous with their time and in great spirits. The warm and passionate reception they received tonight will be just as engaging if they return to Belfast again. I hope they do.  

Jeff Beck's Set List, Belfast

Jeff Beck Signing the Set List

Tal Wilkenfeld and Ronnie Kerrigan - Stage Door , Belfast

Tal Wilkenfeld


Anonymous said...

What a fantastic and astute review. Jeff Beck is arguably the greatest guitarist to ever grace the planet.

Brien Comerford
United States

Ronnie Kerrigan said...

Hi Brien,

Thanks for taking time to read the review and posting your comments. It was a great concert and Jeff was astounding.

I will be posting a review of Jeff at the Royal Albert Hall soon. Another great night.