Sunday, April 10, 2011

Old School

Jeff Beck & the Imelda May Band
The Fillmore, San Francisco
April 9, 2011

Jeff Beck is one of Umlaut's favorite Guitar Gods... and the chance to see him at The Fillmore was a no-brainer. A historic musician in a historic venue; those who fail to learn from history are destined to listen to crap music.. Tonight was the final show of a brief 12 city tour featuring Jeff Beck backed by singer Imelda May and her band. The inspiration behind the shows was Beck paying tribute to the late Les Paul and also to pay homage to the Rock Music of the 1950's that inspired him when he was young.

While killing time in The Fillmore's upstairs bar before the show it was obvious the crowd tonight was a total Baby Boomer Sausage Fest; it was definitely a Bro Date Night for the Weekend Warrior crowd. The following exchange happened between the bartender and an older gentleman standing next to me at the bar:

Bartender: "What would you like?"
Older Gentleman: "A beer."
Bartender: "What kind of beer?"
Older Gentleman: "In a bottle."
Bartender: (pause) "... a Budweiser?"
Older Gentleman: "Yes."

Hope I die before I get old.

Before the set started Beck announced the tribute nature of tonight's show and then he and the band were off and running with versions of songs by Elvis Presley ('Baby Let's Play House') and Gene Vincent ('Cruising'). I was in total Music Geek alert watching Beck strap on his Telecaster because I knew something special was coming... and then he and the band launched into a rip-roaring version of 'Train Kept A-Rollin' that was done like the original rockabilly version instead of the more famous Yardbirds take on the song. Jeff Beck playing 'Train Kept A-Rollin' at The Fillmore!? Woah..

The saucy Imelda May joined the band onstage about 1/3 of the way into the show for a compelling set of Les Paul and Mary Ford classics, including 'Vaya Con Dios' (of course..)... but Beck & Imelda didn't perform 'Tennessee Waltz'. Hmmm.. wonder why.

Les Paul & Mary Ford

It was interesting to watch musicians from England and Ireland (May is Irish) recreating vintage American Rock Music and coming across completely genuine and not cheesy at all. From a Music Geek standpoint it was also interesting watching Beck switch between different guitars so often during the set; usually he just delivers the goods onstage with a Stratocaster. He went from a Gibson hollow body, to a Les Paul (!), to his signature cream Strat depending on the song. When Beck struck his trademark stance to hit a note, posing his cream colored Strat against his right hip and pointing the headstock towards the sky, you could hear the Music Geeks in the room squeal like little schoolgirls (guilty!).

(Photo stolen from The Internet)

According to the Umlaut Archives this was the 5th time I've seen Beck (dating back to 1983) and it was my favorite performance. I'm a fan of Beck's Jazz work, but this was a completely old style Rock 'N Roll set... and the Guitar God soloed during every song. Highlights for Umlaut were the blistering versions of 'Peter Gunn' and 'Apache'. The version of the latter kind of blew my mind... and there was also a very good version of 'Walking In The Sand' with Imelda May channeling The Shangri-Las nicely. A bonus for the great night was that the free Fillmore poster was one of the best ones I've seen in a long time:

The night had the exact same vibe as when I've seen Lemmy perform with his side band The Head Cat; an evening where a Rock Legend geeks out on the music that influenced him. It was like watching Jeff Beck pull records (vinyl!) out of his collection and play them for us.

Thanks to Cable Car for sorting my ticket tonight!

If you bought one of every Jeff Beck merch item you would have paid around $390 including Wired on vinyl (!). On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. The next day ALL of the 21st Century communication wired into Casa de Umlaut (The Internets / Cable) went down for most of the day. How did people find out about music in the 1950's?!