Jeff Beck played the last show of his 2015 solo tour at the State Theatre in Minneapolis on Saturday night, May 23rd.
Backed by bassist Ronda Smith, guitarist Nicolas Meier, drummer Jonathon Joseph and vocalist Jimmy Hall; Jeff and company launched into an incredible 100 minute set that began with “Loaded’ then moved through a mix of originals and covers that had Jimmy Hall belting out lyrics for “Morning Dew” “ A Change is Gonna Come” “Little Wing” “Superstition” “Rollin and Tumblin” “Goin Down” or off stage for the instrumentals during “Nadia” “Cause We Ended as Lovers” “Big Block” “A Day In the Life”
The encores were “Danny Boy” and “The Thrill is Gone.” The band returned for a third and final encore of “Foxy Lady”
I have been listening to Jeff Beck since I was ten years old. My brother was a drummer and always used to play along with Blow by Blow and Wired. Blow by Blow is one of my quintessential road trip listens. I photographed Jeff Beck on his Fire and Fury Tour in 1989 with Stevie Ray Vaughan, but didn’t get the quality imagery as I did this past Saturday night.
Working with Jeff’s PR folks, I was granted a photo pass to shoot he first two song of the show. This was short access. I usually am granted three songs. I looked online and found a set list from the show in Chicago two days prior. I watched video clips of the two first two songs and felt that shooting from stage right ( left of house) was the best option. When I arrived at the venue and met the media contact there, they indicated there would be two photographers shooting, I would get left of house and the other would get right of house. I was cool with that, because it was what I had hoped for in the first place.
I nervously paced back and forth front of house shaking the nervousness out my hands as opening act Billy Ruffoul ripped through a 40 minute set. He was a left-handed player and mixed it up between acoustic and electric guitar. He’s a good player…but then, he was opening for Jeff, so maybe that’s an understatement. His last song was “The Seeker” which calmed me down some as I heard The Who play it 10 days earlier. I don’t know, in my mind it seemed to come all full circle.
I made my way to my shooting position and the house went dark at 8:50, precisely the time I was told Jeff would start. “Loaded” began and I moved closer to the stage to capture the action.
For me, the moment of it all was half way through the second song “Nine”, Jeff looked into my camera and smiled and I captured this:
After the two song minimum, I was at my seat and just so high from what I saw through my lens as the show unfolded before me. I settled in and just grooved hearing Jeff’s playing with the same amazement I have every time I listen to Blow by Blow.
I thought Jimmy Hall’s vocals were ok, but didn’t seem to be on par with the caliber of the rest of the musicians on stage…but he still rocked out.
During Nicolas Meier’s “Yemen” as he and Jeff traded licks I thought it was as if East meets West on the guitar front. Nicolas’ playing was the perfect to compliment to Jeff. From my time shooting and in my seat, I could always see him looking over at Jeff, just smiling away…the bond between these two quite evident.
Ronda Smith’s bass playing never disappoints and I see why she has played with Jeff for years now as she compliments his style completely and can hold her own with a funkalicious style of impressive fingering.
Jonathan Joseph was just an power house on the drums! Whether it was a thundering rhythm, a jazzy four-time and everything in between; he kept a solid presence behind the kit.
Jeff’s playing on “Little Wing” brought tears to my eyes as emotions over came me.
Watching and listening to him play live was just amazing as he finger-picked his Strat making it wail the blues, chop through funk, glide through jazz, blister into heavy rock and then mix it all up again.
Here is the link to the images form the show: https://www.flickr.com/photos/joebielawa/sets/72157653422383632