TORONTO Last year acclaimed British guitarist Jeff Beck opened and basically ran circles around fellow axe man Eric Clapton at Toronto's Air Canada Centre, one of a handful of dates pairing the two former Yardbirds.
Tuesday night at a sold-out Massey Hall, Beck had nobody to one-up yet still showed there's a lot of creative fire burning in that 67-year-old, rail-thin belly of his.
For nearly two hours, the almost shy Beck touring across Canada (and that includes Maritime stops) behind 2010's Emotion & Commotion performed a near flawless set of genre-spanning signatures. Whether it was the blues that he would showcase on a foot stomping cover of Rollin' And Tumblin' or the mellow, romantic jazz-tinged Cause We've Ended As Lovers he dusted off three-quarters into the night, he's still pushing the envelope.
Part of his prowess is in part due to his seasoned supporting cast, one which seems to change quite often and forces him to be on his toes. The trio of keyboardist Jason Rebello, bassist (and Halifax native) Rhonda Smith and drummer Narada Michael Walden shone on the beefy Big Block off his critically acclaimed album Jeff Beck's Guitar Shop and especially on Stratus thanks to Smith and Walden's air tight rhythmic synergy.
Encouraging the crowd to show their enthusiasm on Led Boots, Beck played a tight, intricate array of notes before the edgier Rice Pudding had him breaking the song down before quickly bringing it back up. Yet rarely did the guitarist go over the top, allowing his trademark spacing between the notes resonate loudly on the delicate People Get Ready with its sweet high points.
Thank you ladies and gentlemen, Beck said prior to Smith having a bass solo in one of his longest audience addresses of the night. But when his nimble finger picking on songs like Hammerhead and a cover of Jimi Hendrix's Little Wing comes to the fore does he really need to say anything?
The lone miscue of the evening lasted only a few seconds with Rebello jumping a place in the song order before Beck shuffled over to tell him the error. A solid Brush With The Blues preceded a cinematic and majestic rendition of Over The Rainbow. However even these paled to the set-closing A Day In The Life, complete with the intense wall of sound build-up near its coda.
Returning for an encore, Beck had all standing for the funky anthem I Want To Take You Higher. Yet his one-two combination to wrap things up said far more about where he is heading than where he's been: a tasteful cover of the operatic Nessun Dorma and a stellar effort on Bad Romance.
Yes, Lady Gaga's Bad Romance.
Inspiring to see a man responsible for countless people picking up a guitar or air guitar refusing to rest on his laurels.