Still My Guitar

Jeff Beck is coming to Israel with his all-star band

Jeff Beck 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Jeff Beck 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Don’t be surprised if you’re walking around Tel Aviv this week and you hear some other-worldly guitar sounds seeping out of a rundown warehouse. It’s likely that you’ve stumbled upon Jeff Beck rehearsing for his two shows in the country on October 4 at Reading 3 and October 5 at the Caesarea Amphitheater.
The British legend will be arriving here a few days before the shows, along with his all-star band consisting of Narada Michael Walden on drums, Rhonda Smith on bass and Jason Rebello on keyboards, to practice and regroup after a break from touring in support of his most recent album, Emotion and Commotion.
As opposed to other musical acts who chose to cancel shows here this year, identifying with a pro- Palestinian boycott effort, Beck seems oblivious to regional politics, even unknowingly dropping a politically loaded word into his remarks.
“We’ve chosen to rehearse in Israel and settle there for a few days rather than rehearse in England and get off the plane [to play] – we want to acclimatize ourselves,” he said talking to The Jerusalem Post from his home in England.
Even though he wondered aloud if the weather was going to be too warm in October, Beck should have no problem adapting to our climate. After all, he’s acclimated himself to so many musical styles in his career that he’s practically a musical barometer.
Graduating from the seminal 1960s British band The Yardbirds, along with fellow alumni Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton, Beck has never looked back. Unlike Page, who scaled the guitar god heights with Led Zeppelin before resting on his laurels for the ensuing 30 years, or Clapton, who also reached the heavens with Cream and Derek and the Dominoes before settling into a sort of easy listening pop/blues netherworld, Beck has continued to seek new styles in an effort to challenge himself and keep things fresh. That’s probably why he’s the lesser known of the trio, but certainly not the least accomplished.
“I guess I enjoy turning the expectations of me on their head, but I do it in a healthy way,” said Beck. “I don’t see the sense in letting people get too familiar or too close to a given style. To do that wouldn’t be my cup of tea. I think the mantra is to please myself first, and judge whether what I’ve just done is worth releasing.”
Ranked No. 14 on Rolling Stone’s list of the greatest guitarists of all time, Beck has played with a virtual who’s who of popular music, ranging from Rod Stewart, who was vocalist in Beck’s first post-Yardbirds band, The Jeff Beck Group, to Kate Bush, Roger Waters, Stevie Wonder, Stanley Clarke, Les Paul, Cyndi Lauper, Brian May and ZZ Top.
Most guitar aficionados point to Beck’s 1975 album Blow by Blow, a hard rock-jazz pastiche, as the pinnacle of his instrumental prowess. Fatefully, Beck chose to make the album, produced by George Martin of Beatles fame, in lieu of an offer to join The Rolling Stones, a decision he’s never regretted.
“Obviously it would have been interesting to see how life with the Stones would have changed me and my playing. Of course, I couldn’t drink as much as I would have had to or do other stuff,” he laughed. “It was a fantastic opportunity, but the other option with George Martin was so powerful… and the idea of having a career for myself. I suppose it’s selfishness, but it enabled me to be on the ticket myself rather than a member of The Rolling Stones.”
And that’s whose name will be on the ticket on Monday and Tuesday – Jeff Beck.