Witness to Bolero – Seeing Jeff Beck Live
It was a Saturday afternoon when I was hanging around the house watching documentaries on VH1. Music nerds like me will do that from time to time. It was the little brother of VH1's Behind the Music called VH1 Legends. This was the show where there were no new interviews with band members so it had its own place. Led Zeppelin was the topic of discussion. And you can't tell the story of Zep without talking about the Yardbirds as they were the band that was the genesis for the might Zeppelin.
The Yardbirds had the distinction to playing host to three of the greatest guitarists of all time. Eric Clapton did some time there as did Jimmy Page. In the middle was Jeff Beck, who passed away on January 11 2023. He spearheaded what was undoubtably the greatest time for the band. While watching the special, I was intrigued by the few small tidbits of sound they played from, this era of the band and set out to find more. It led me down a path to being a big fan of the Yardbirds as well as of Jeff Beck himself.
Almost 20 years later, while living in Nashville I saw the announcement I had been waiting for; Jeff Beck was going to play the Ryman. To see the master in person had been a goal for me and I wasn't going to miss it. I invited a fellow guitar enthusiast friend with me, and we were set.
When we took our seats, we were pleasantly surprised to see Brad Whitford of Aerosmith sitting next to us. We acted all cool like it was no big thing, but I was screaming inside. Aerosmith had covered the Yardbirds classics "Train Kept a Rollin" and "I Ain't Got You" so I was not shocked to see Mr. Whitford there to experience the master for himself.
Throughout the evening we were treated to songs old and new alike. Songs from his latest album "Emotion & Commotion" went over just as well as classics like "Cause We Ended As Lovers". Watching him work a whammy bar and play with his thumb in that very unique style he cultivated over the years was an absolute joy. The musicians who shared the stage with him that night proved that music is the great unifier. The reverence he showed to each of them showed a true humble and joyous individual who just enjoyed the sounds being made.
As BB King had died only days before, we were given the additional treat of the band covering "The Thrill is Gone". It was a beautiful tribute to an influence in Jeff's life. No doubt over the coming years, we will be treated to tributes just like it to the man with a heart full of soul.