April 4, 2011
Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie
Grand Prairie, TX USA
Review by Jeff Jones
Photos by Jeff Jones
Jeff Beck - Jeff Beck, The Imelda May Band - Dallas/Fort Worth
Guitarist Jeff Beck brought his Rock and Roll Party with Imelda May to the Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie to honor the legendary Les Paul, and a handful of other musicians inspired this legend to pick up a guitar in his youth. Opening the show was local blues man Holland K. Smith, along with drummer and stand up bass. They rolled through a handful of great bluesy rockabilly numbers and instrumental. Many in the crowd were obviously familiar with Smith, with many shout outs and urging for Smith to "Tear it up" and to "Get with it". After one well-timed call out during a moment when Smith was tuning his guitar he replied, "Man, I told you to stay in the truck!" It got a big laugh and applause from the crowd, and was the perfect intro to the main attraction. Jeff Beck got his show rolling with Imelda May's backup back (including her husband Darrel Higham on vocals), by launching into Elvis Presley's "Baby Let's Play House," Gene Vincent's "Double Talking Baby" and the crowd pleasing "Train Kept a Rollin'."
The group was soon joined on stage by the incomparable Imelda May. Her first two songs, "Poor Boy Blues" and "Cry Me a River" were the perfect tunes to showcase for her powerful vocal talents and mesmerizing stage presence. There isn't many performers who can step on a stage and so easily take the focus of the show's main attraction (Beck). May had no problems pulling the spotlight off what many people consider to be one of the world's all-time great guitarists. Her sing and seductive movements constantly had the audience focusing squarely on her presence while Beck settled comfortably into the background.
The Les Paul tribute started with "How High the Moon," a great song for Beck's jazz/rock style of playing, and Imelda's amazing voice. The singer admitted after the song it was impossible for her to sing all seven vocal parts in the song. She confessed that the band had done the same thing Les did back in the day, record all the different vocal parts with Mary Ford. It was an acknowledgment to one of Paul's many contributions to the music world. They continued to honor Les Paul with covers of "The Tiger Rag" with Jeff and Imelda playing to each other during the song, "Mockingbird Hill, Vaya Condios" and "Bye Bye Blues".
May left the stage so that Beck and the boys (including a horn section) could do a rousing rendition of the "Peter Gunn" theme and "Rocking Is Our Business" during "Sleep Walk." This instrumental showcased Beck's slide work and manipulation of volume and tone knobs on his guitar that brought a hush over the small but very appreciative crowd.
Imelda returned to rejoin the band for several more songs including "I'll Go Crazy" and "Casting My Spell On You" before they launched into Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock" with Higham once again adding vocals while an informal sock hop developed started with audience members getting up to dance. The band headed off stage for a quick break while the crowd roared for an encore. After a few minutes, the band returned for one of the evening's real highlights - an amazing rendition of the old classic "Remember Walking In The Sand," which prompted many in the audience to sing a long. Next, Higham did an impressive job on Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog." The shows finale was "Danny Boy." Jeff and Imelda teamed up for an amazing cover of this Irish classic. From a show where the focus seemed less about Jeff Beck the guitarist, and more about the songs the band were playing, this one tune brought everything full circle. It also for a few shiny minutes, brought out a somewhat animated Jeff Beck, the guitar hero everyone had come out to see.
On a side note, it was great that Beck's manager came out before "The Girl Cant Help It" and encouraged the crowd to leave their seats and come to the front of the stage towards the end of the show. Yeah, there may have been some people upset that Beck didn't play any Beck. And yeah, this show wasn't for everyone. But here's the thing. This tour wasn't about Jeff Beck. It was a concert to honor the legendary, and often unheralded Les Paul, a man who single-handedly helped shape and change the way music is played today.