"Legend" is a word that's tossed around casually these days. In terms of musicians, a lifetime of devotion and dedication to one's art is a prerequisite for being awarded such a prestigious distinction. Two names come to mind when deciding who is indeed worthy of such praise: guitar wizard Jeff Beck and pop genius Brian Wilson. As unlikely a touring double-bill as it seems, last Saturday's nearly sold-out stop on the duo's current co-headlining world tour at Clearwater's Ruth Eckerd Hall was filled with a room full of devout followers who'd gladly slap that dubious "L" word on either of these two rock heavyweights. [Words by Gabe, photos by Tracy.]
For only the second night of the lengthy nationwide trek, both headliners and their individual respective backing bands seemed well-rehearsed and tight. Opening the night was Brian Wilson, sitting behind a majestic white grand piano at the left-hand lip of the stage. He wasted no time transporting the mostly middle-aged crowd to a happier and simpler time when Beach Boys songs ruled the airwaves. Kicking things off with the bouncy, familiar chords of "California Girls," Wilson and his 10-piece band instantaneously filled the room with sunshine and sea breezes...and impeccable harmonies. Easing his way though some of the biggest and most well-known Beach Boys classics, Wilson shared lead vocal duties with Al Jardine and David Marks, both original Beach Boys band members. While both shone instantly when taking their turns at the mic, vocally, Wilson seemed a little shaky, at least at first anyway. But by the time he wrapped his vocals around "God Only Knows," a song he introduced and a Paul McCartney favorite, he was in full control of his recognizable falsetto.
Adding in some lesser-known numbers ("Little Bird" from 1968's Friends album) did plenty to please the diehards in attendance. But it was the set-ending numbers that got the majority of the crowd up and out of their seats and singing along joyously; "I Get Around" into the quirky, sonically mesmerizing classic "Good Vibrations" was a brilliant way to end the opening 70-minute set.
In a total shifting of gears, guitar virtuoso Jeff Beck took the stage after a brief intermission. Backed by a smaller yet equally effective backing band, Beck wasted no time unleashing his jaw-dropping guitar prowess and wowing the crowd. Clad in black slacks with sparkled stripes down the sides, vest and sleeveless t-shirt, the diminutive guitar god effortlessly, coolly and nonchalantly strutted from side to side of the enormous stage while indubitably blazing magic from his white Fender Stratocaster.
Aided by tall, leggy and gorgeous blonde electric violinist Lizzie Ball, Beck's four-piece band helped him sail to some pretty spectacular heights during his hour-long set. Touching on highlights from his long, illustrious career, standouts included a couple of numbers ("Big Block" and "Where Were You") from his stunning 1989 release, Jeff Beck's Guitar Shop. His reading of the Jimi Hendrix classic "Little Wing" rightfully elicited a spontaneous standing ovation, while Beck's take on jazz great Charles Mingus's "Goodbye Pork Pie" (from his 1976 landmark Wired album) benefited from Beck's uncanny ability to improvise and never play the same song in the exact same way. His showstopper, however, remains his head-spinning, goose bump-inducing version of the Beatles classic, "A Day in the Life." Beck miraculously packs an incredible amount of feeling and emotion into an instrumental version of this complicated composition and in the process, rivals the original in sheer bombast.
For the show's closing, both bands occupied the crowded stage and Wilson once again lent his vocals to the final numbers. While Beck continued to quietly show off his spectacular chops, Wilson led the crowd through sing-along versions of "Surfin' U.S.A." and "Fun, Fun, Fun."
While the pairing of these two legends seemed unusual when word of this tour hit the press, the end result was nothing short of stellar. Getting to spend nearly three hours hearing these two musical giants revisit their individual musical catalogs with respective incredible backing bands in tow was a fantastic way to spend a fun Saturday night filled with great music and great memories.
Brian Wilson Set List
Do It Again
Shut Down (Al Jardine Lead Vocal)
Little Deuce Coupe (Al Jardine Lead Vocal)
Then I Kissed Her (Al Jardine Lead Vocal)
Little Bird (David Marks Lead Vocal)
Old Man River/Cottonfields (Al Jardine Lead Vocal)
That's Why God Made The Radio
Sail On, Sailor
Heroes and Villains
God Only Knows
Wouldn't It Be Nice
Sloop John B
Help Me, Rhonda (Al Jardine Lead Vocal)
I Get Around
Jeff Beck Set List
You Know, You Know
Where Were You
Our Prayer (with Brian and his band on vocals)
Child Is Father of the Man (with Brian and his band on vocals)
Surf's Up (with Brian and his band on vocals)
Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
How High the Moon
Rollin' and Tumblin' (With Several Members of Brian Wilson Band)
A Day in the Life
Do You Wanna Dance?
Fun, Fun, Fun
No Jaz-O should reign supreme
That new POHGOH track is gorgeous.
Lots of love for Solids and Wye Oak on here. Yes!