Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!


Jeff Beck in Cologne

Phillip Woolever By

Sign in to view read count
Jeff Beck Group
Cologne, Germany
May 29, 2014

Sometimes a man's reputation proceeds him. Such was the case tonight, where an overflow crowd of 2,000 fans arrived early, and crammed into a steamy bunker of bricks to hear Jeff Beck's wonderous wails to the electric wind.

With general admission ticket prices around an 80 buck exchange rate, it was good indication of respect. The price of admission proved to be merited, about twenty licks in.

Luckily for hundreds of fans, sensational sounds were the primary pleasure, because for a while, seeing Beck and hearing him were very different things. There were limited sightlines until after about an hour in the steam bath, when hundreds near the front and along the balcony took a breather and allowed a shift in the perimeters.

The place was packed even before noteworthy opener Oli Brown began. Brown is an emerging UK blues star who rocks hard. Tonight his solo acoustic show had more of a folksy vibe, which helped keep the packed mass of politely pressing people relaxed. It says something about the entire show's quality that people clambered to scale the interior girders for a better glimpse, to the final note.

Beck had spoken of reinventing his tonal vocabulary, and has a new album forthcoming with this current band. If the tour is evidence, the results of Beck's efforts are already excellent.

They came out hard and heavy with their usual opening songs, "Loaded" and "Nine," and began a one hundred minute demonstration of passion and prowess. Intros segued into a nice solo by bassist Rhonda Smith. Besides her nimble fingers, Smith later put a stick bass and a bow to good use. "Stratus" remains a decades-long, reliable standard for two major artists, Beck and composer Billy Cobham, and it was no surprise the song got a loud reception here. Beck avoids compartmentalization but maintains a hybrid jazz sensibility and remains a premier player in whatever genre he graces.

Beck got down to business with minimal theatrics but maintained a dramatic image as the sparkling silver bracelets on his right hand glittered. At one point, Beck smiled and put a finger gun to his head, as if signaling a mistake. If so, it was hard to notice amidst stirring riffs.

"Yemin," by guitarist Nicholas Meier, began with the composer's astral chords and demonstrated how Beck knew his previously announced "search for a new sound" meant adding a counter-balancing guitar. "Egyptian" progressed along similar Middle Eastern meters, while Meier struck pipe-like effects so well you had to scan the stage to make sure nobody was playing keys in the shadows.

The quartet, driven hard by powerhouse drummer Jonathan Joseph, provided an amazing foundation, with no sign Beck required any cover-up support.

"Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" morphed into a dual guitar symphony, and the band served up some gooey funk on "You Never Know" and "Why Give it Away?" with Smith providing solid vocals. Gently piercing takes on "Little Wing" and "Danny Boy" were about as mellow as the evening got. A lot more pumpkins got smashed than bridges got rolled.

"Blue Wind" might have been the highlight of a show with many highlights, while "Big Block" roared into a glorious grind like Godzilla doing the radioactive jam. For Beck, it was just another day in the life of a true guitar hero.

It was the type of blazing concert where despite the volume, one pulled ear plugs out for pure sound, then put them back in, with hope of hearing more from a revitalized ax-man supreme.

"Some of this stuff is supposed to be on a new album," Beck said. "I'm sorry it's not finished yet." No apology necessary. This project sounds well worth waiting for, but hopefully not too long.

Beck's respectfully understated finger picking intro signaled "Rollin and a Tumblin," with various tips of his multiple hats to both The Yardbirds and their pathfinders.

Traditional licks were sweet enough, but it was the sliding, finger plucked jazz runs that made this a special night. The concert was already one of the season's best, and "'Cause We've Ended as Lovers" put the set well into classic range.

"Thank you for all your support over the years," concluded Beck sincerely. "Fifty fuckin' years! I don't know what I'd do without you. Bless you all."

Beck did bless them all, the primary scepter a white-bodied Stratocaster. When he laid the instrument on stage for a symbolic, reverberating climax, it seemed to glow like the mother of pearl.


comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Jazztopad Festival 2017 Live Reviews Jazztopad Festival 2017
by Henning Bolte
Published: December 13, 2017
Read Vivian Reed at Feinstein's/54 Below Live Reviews Vivian Reed at Feinstein's/54 Below
by Tyran Grillo
Published: December 12, 2017
Read Henry Threadgill at Tilton Gallery Live Reviews Henry Threadgill at Tilton Gallery
by Kurt Gottschalk
Published: December 10, 2017
Read The Brian McCarthy Quartet At FlynnSpace Live Reviews The Brian McCarthy Quartet At FlynnSpace
by Doug Collette
Published: December 10, 2017
Read Mindi Abair at The Empress Theatre Live Reviews Mindi Abair at The Empress Theatre
by Walter Atkins
Published: December 8, 2017
Read BAN BAM: Music Talking Live Reviews BAN BAM: Music Talking
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 7, 2017
Read "Vivian Reed at Feinstein's/54 Below" Live Reviews Vivian Reed at Feinstein's/54 Below
by Tyran Grillo
Published: December 12, 2017
Read "Stick Men at Havana" Live Reviews Stick Men at Havana
by Geno Thackara
Published: August 25, 2017
Read "WAR with Malo At Stern Grove" Live Reviews WAR with Malo At Stern Grove
by Walter Atkins
Published: August 27, 2017
Read "Herbie Hancock at the Gaillard Center Music Hall" Live Reviews Herbie Hancock at the Gaillard Center Music Hall
by Rob Rosenblum
Published: October 23, 2017
Read "Pat Metheny at Cologne Philharmonic" Live Reviews Pat Metheny at Cologne Philharmonic
by Phillip Woolever
Published: November 8, 2017
Read "Slovenian Showcase Festival 2017" Live Reviews Slovenian Showcase Festival 2017
by Ian Patterson
Published: October 4, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!