Rock 'N' Roll Party
Among Jeff Beck’s many eccentricities is his love for rockabilly. In 1993, that love carried over to Crazy Legs, an album of Gene Vincent songs and a tribute to Vincent’s guitarist, Cliff Gallup. Beck also has a soft spot for Les Paul, who passed away in 2009 at the age of 94. Somehow, Beck managed to thoughtfully combine hsi loves by putting a band together to play early rock standards and a tasty selection of Les Paul songs. To make it even more special, he staged and filmed the performance at the Iridium Jazz Club, the same club where Paul played every Monday night for almost 15 years. Jeff Beck’s Rock N’ Roll Party turns the legendary NYC venue into a rockabilly rave!
After a glimpse of setting up and pre-show jitters, the show launches into a time capsule, with Beck switching out between his collection of Gibsons and Fenders, and singer Darrel Higham crooning the vocals on “Baby Let’s Play House,” “Double Talkin’ Baby,” “Cruisin’” and “Train Kept A Rollin’”. From there, Beck grabs his slide and Imelda May takes over the vocals on “Poor Boy.”
Together, Beck and May step back even further, first covering “Cry Me A River,” a 1953 torcher written for Ella Fitzgerald, before carefully rolling through the music of Les Paul and Mary Ford, complete with multi-track harmonies from May. By this time, Beck is playing a Sunburst Les Paul and faithfully recreating Paul’s intricate guitar parts with steadfast precision and a few of his own personal quirks. You have to wonder if Les Paul himself ever played “The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise” quite as well as Beck did on this night.
A horn section comes out for “Peter Gunn” to wail on the opening section before the guitarist answers back on the turnaround. Then it's a short trip through instrumentals like “Apache,” a hit for the Shadows, and Santo and Johnny’s “Sleep Walk.” From there, a long line of guests join Beck, including Gary U.S. Bonds (“New Orleans”) and Brian Setzer (“Twenty Flight Rock”). By this time, the party is raging and even Beck adds some background vocals to “The Girl Can’t Help It.” The show ends with a pair of Bill Halley and The Comets hits, “Rock Around The Clock” and “Shake, Rattle & Roll.”
In addition to the actual show, there’s loads of bonus material, including interviews with Beck, behind the scenes footage, the guitarist at home with his tools of the trade (like a scene out of This Is Spinal Tap). There are also some classic clips of Beck jamming with Les Paul and Billy Squier (?). Is it any wonder that Beck, now a multiple Grammy winner, continues to keep his loyal legion of fans guessing what his next move will be? Forward, backwards, over, under, sideways, down — no matter which way he goes, it never undermines the notion that the master may well be the world’s greatest electric guitarist still swinging an ax. Rock N’ Roll Party is all you need to see that.
~ Shawn Perry