Ravinia Pavilion and the surrounding grounds are situated in a peaceful Chicago suburb, far enough from the main drag to offer tranquility. Yet there was still an undercurrent of tension on Sunday night: what would Jeff Beck play tonight? Songs from his newly released album 'Loud Hailer'? Or the blues and experimental fare more typical of his last few concerts?

It has been six years since the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and Grammy winner released a new studio album. 'Emotion & Commotion' featured more than satisfying surprises: a passionate, instrumental version of Puccini's 'Nessun Dorma' as well as American musical standards. And of course where there's Jeff Beck there's an awesome trail of blues.

In the early days of his 50-year career, Beck played with The Yardbirds before forming the Jeff Beck Group. He brings to the stage a world of experience and virtuosity and has taken care to perform with imaginative touring mates: the likes of The Beach Boys, Imelda May and Joss Stone. Tonight he'd be debuting a brand new lineup, featuring The Bones - vocalist Rosie Bones and guitarist Carmen Vandenberg.

Anything could happen.

Those holding lawn tickets munched on green grapes and shared bottles of wine, which they'd spread out across communal blankets, whilst those in the pavilion settled eagerly into their covered seats where the excellent sight lines hardly required the use of the overhead screens.

The quartet walked onstage confidently. Beck, decked out in a skin-tight black T-shirt and other eye-catching apparel, grabbed the spotlight with his stark white Fender guitar.

Beck launched into a series of throbbing chords and crystal-clear tones. Then the scratchy-voiced Rosie Bones, donned in green khaki and military boots marched around angrily, as she bellowed the lyrics of 'The Revolution will be Televised' through a megaphone. It's a fever-pitch song with strong, political overtones, a guerilla-style call to arms.

This opening stunned anyone not familiar with 'Loud Hailer' and the back story, but the overall reaction was positive. Beck and his Bones' cowriters have infused a great deal of passion into their music. It was a smart choice to use this album cut as an opener and, as Beck has recently stated, it's his time to openly address the world at large through socially conscious lyrics: "I loved the idea of being at a rally and using this loud device to shout my point of view".

It was on to the first instrumental, 'Freeway Jam'. Beck initiated a brilliant call-and-response
with the rhythm section. His staccato guitar and space effects triggered amazing drum fills courtesy of Jonathan Joseph. Beck wowed the audience by getting remarkably pure tones out of extremely high-register notes as Rhonda Smith pounded out deep-cut bass lines.

Then Wet Willie front man Jimmy Hall performed a Lonnie Mack cover, 'Lonnie on the Move'. His built-for-blues voice and raw harmonica solo got the audience to move and hoot. Bones led again with the rousing 'Live in the Dark' after Beck's stormy intro. "We will love in the dark, hold hands in the dark," she sang, forcefully. It was another song with a deceptive deeper meaning.

'The Ballad of the Jersey Wives' was not sung from the standpoint of a docile woman. Or is it a metaphor? Either way, the performance was fiery and so were the hard hitting lyrics. Bones violently chanted: "I kick, kick, kick down the door, kick down the door 'til there is no more." Beck has developed a terrific chemistry with his new lineup that even transcends the already visceral lyrical arrangements.

Hall took back the stage with 'Morning Dew' from 1968's 'Truth', a 12-bar blues ballad that began hopefully: "Please walk me out in the morning dew," but the story quickly evaporated into bittersweetness, with Joseph adding sufficient flair.

Hall's take on Sam Cooke's 'Change is Gonna Come' closely matched Beck's electric intensity. The big ensemble ending and Hall's vocal machinations prompted a midshow standing ovation. But the band didn't stand on ceremony. They quickly veered into the thrilling and bluesy 'Big Block', which was rife with torrential riffs at every cadence and Beck's melodic gem, 'Cause We've Ended as Lovers'.

Then it was time to bring on the funk. Beck's slide work exceeded expectations, but the vocals were also dynamite on the steamy and soulful 'O.I.L.' ('Can't Get Enough of That Sticky Stuff'), which Bones performed with complete abandon, punching out lyrics like a prize fighter. But she grew stunningly somber for 'Scared for the Children'. Sitting on the edge of the stage, she was especially emotional at the stanza, where she repeated the line, "end of the age of the innocent". Beck responded with a blissful outro.

It was back to the blues again with swampy 'Rollin' and Tumblin' and from 'Beckology' the band revived Stevie Wonder's 'Superstition' in a version that Beck completely made his own. 'Right Now' was right in line with the other assertive songs on the set list. Bones shouting, "Don't know what I want, but I want it right now," over which Beck incorporated a slew of dizzying effects.

In 2009, Beck won a Grammy for Best Instrumental Performance for his interpretation of The Beatles' 'Day in the Life'. It was a great choice for an encore and inspired another standing ovation.

Chicago's own Buddy Guy was up next. He rifled through a series of his best-loved covers and originals: 'Damn right, I've got the Blues,' Boyd's 'Five Long Years', Dixon's 'I Just Want to Make Love to You' and 'Hoochie Coochie Man', Little Willie John's 'Fever', Marvin Gaye's 'Ain't That Peculiar', Hooker's 'Boom Boom'. In between his hits, he talked sincerely about his Louisiana roots and indebtedness to his mother and teased the audience about their lackluster singing.

Most memorable was when he invited Tom Hambridge, producer and cowriter of 'Skin Deep', their extraordinary cowrite, to the stage to harmonize. Their performance was full of grace and sensitivity. Guy also harmonized with his daughter and disappeared through the crowd, popping up randomly to treat a lucky fan to a personal solo. The Grammy winning artist's voice and guitar playing were top notch.

But the big news is that Buddy Guy was celebrating his 80th birthday on this very tour. To honour the occasion, Jeff Beck came back onstage to perform with Guy and to play an instrumental version of 'Happy Birthday'. It was the most golden of moments; two legends acknowledging a monumental milestone on a tranquil, moonlit night. It just doesn't get better.

Photos by Philamonjaro
www.philamonjaro.com
















Related Links:

http://www.buddyguy.net/
http://www.jeffbeck.com/
https://twitter.com/jeffbeckmusic
https://www.facebook.com/jeffbeck
https://www.facebook.com/therealbuddyguy/


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