By GARRETT MONTGOMERY
Wearing his signature sleeveless vest and neck kerchief, Jeff Beck took the stage at a sold-out Ulster Performing Arts Center this past Tuesday. From 8:50 p.m. until nearly 10:30, the crowd listened and watched in awe, mesmerized by every note.
After his band warmed the crowd up for a minute, Beck strutted onto the stage and picked up a gleaming white guitar. Without hesitation, he jumped headlong into an intense night of jamming. A thick diamond wristband glistened with each turn of his wrist. Beck’s thumb flicked like a hummingbird’s wing across the strings, rapidly and instinctually. He paid particular attention to the lower end of the guitar’s neck, yielding high, emotional notes that each tap of the whammy bar contorted with surgeon-like precision.
Beck was front and center for the first two quick, yet poignant songs before bassist Rhonda Smith reminded the Kingston crowd that it was no one-man show. Dressed coolly in high heels and harem pants, she swaggered to the front of the stage and dazzled with a long solo, alternating between picking and slapping. Notes flew from her bass in fluid, creative patterns. She flourished in the spotlight before ambling back to her amp for a swig of beer. When she did so, Jonathan Joseph kicked into high gear and erupted for a massive drum solo, mixing in intricate time signatures and utilizing his entire kit.
A few instrumental rock jams ensued, then Jimmy Hall stepped up to a microphone and serenaded the crowd with powerful vocals during a Blind Faith cover. He yo-yoed on and off stage all night, showcasing a soulful voice and a huge range when participating. The highlight of Hall’s contribution came during a high-octane cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious.” The final musician on stage, supporting guitarist Nicolas Meier, stood out during a tantalizing Middle-Eastern-esque segment of the show.
With the help of the immensely talented musicians surrounding him, Jeff Beck put on an unforgettable show. At times, he hammered his guitar, taking us on a trip to shred-city with carefully orchestrated chaos. Jams teetered on the edge of being so creative and unique they were nearly nonsensical. Before overdoing it, however, Beck nimbly eased up, subtly bringing us back to a comfortable place with gentle meticulousness.
Portions of the concert ranged from bluesy to Middle Eastern to heavy shredding and soul was aplenty. Whether it was covering Hendrix or The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” or playing original instrumental compositions, Beck held devoted fans spellbound for ninety minutes. Like a fine wine, age has treated the rock hero well; he has not lost a beat, merely added to his repertoire.