Every Jeff Beck show is a virtual clinic on technical mastery of the electric six-string. Wednesday’s greatest hits revue, the fourth of six shows in an all-California tour, was an eye-opener.
Beck proffered melodies followed by amazingly dexterous solos for 90 minutes, clearly articulating the source from which he would commence an exploration. In the past, he has not always been so clear — the man can play solos till the cows come home with little sense of a melodic root.
Playing a single Fender guitar through four good-sized Marshall amps, he opened with a slide-driven rendition of “Beck’s Bolero” that was a model of economy, a warm-up to the rapid-fire tunes like “Scatterbrain” that would dazzle. Like most of the show, Beck played with an invigorating compactness that was supported ably by his brilliant backing musicians — bassist Pino Paladino, the rambunctious drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and keyboardist Jason Rebello. Band proved adept in all the Beck formats — jazz, prog rock, the reggae of “Behind the Veil” and mournful “People Get Ready” — saving the best for last with an incendiary version of Freddie King’s blues stomp “Goin’ Down.”
Beck retreated to his first album, 1968’s “Truth,” for four tunes, bringing on singer Beth Hart to belt out numbers Rod Stewart performed in the early group. A finer grade of sandpaper has burnished her vocal chords, but she still delivered assertive — and at times commanding — readings of “Ain’t Superstitious” and “Morning Dew.”
Beck, who has been out of the public eye for a few years, toured with the same instrumentalists in Japan for nine dates last year and kept to the same repertoire as the L.A. show. The guitarist has also kept his recording dates to a minimum, appearing on a track with Cyndi Lauper last year and a Les Paul tribute record as well. He is contemplating a fall tour.