The first of two tribute concerts to the late Jeff Beck was held last night, Monday 22 May, at London’s Royal Albert Hall, with Beck’s widow, Sandra, and fellow Yardbird alum Eric Clapton bringing together a spectacular all-star lineup to celebrate his life.
And it really was a celebration. Just check out Robert Randolph’s Instagram for an idea of what it was like to be on that stage in front of a capacity crowd. Here we are with Rod Stewart getting down to a band that features Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Clapton, Doyle Bramhall II, Billy Gibbons, Gary Clark Jr, and Ronnie Wood on electric guitar. And who’s that right there at the back? Oh, just Kirk Hammett from Metallica. Incredible.
Those lucky enough to have bagged a ticket for these shows witnessed a set worthy of the great man – and hopefully, surely there will be a commemorative DVD/Blu-ray in the works.
But in lieu of that, how about watching Clapton, Tedeschi, Trucks and Bramhall perform the old Elmore James standard The Sky Is Crying, with Tedeschi on vocals and everyone taking a turn to solo?
It’s a performance that finds Clapton in top form. In recent years, his he has been suffering from peripheral neuropathy, a condition that he says makes it “hard work” t0 play guitar, but wouldn’t know it as he takes the opening solo here on an Olympic White Fender Stratocaster with Tedeschi, Trucks and Bramhall holding down the rhythm.
They’ve done these many a time before. The Sky Is Crying is one of the Tedeschi Trucks Band’s most regularly covered tracks, and it’s usually an occasion for bringing a guest onstage.
Speaking to MusicRadar in 2022, Tedeschi said keeping the audience guessing on the set-list and who might be joining them on any given evening is a big part of their show.
“It’s fun to leave people guessing,” she said. “People like the spontaneity of, ‘What are they gonna play tonight? And who’s gonna sit in!?’ It could be Santana or Clapton, you just don’t know.”
Last night, everyone was sitting in together, and it was Tedeschi who stole the show when taking the second solo on her ‘90s Telecaster, mostly working the neck pickup as she led the band into the penultimate verse before Trucks brings it on home on slide.
Trucks and Clapton also jammed Muddy Waters classic Little Brown Bird, a track Clapton famously performed with Beck himself. You can watch fan-shot footage of this in the video above. More highlights are sure to emerge on YouTube, and more will be made tonight.
Other guest performers included John McLaughlin, Johnny Depp, Imelda May, Joss Stone, and the opera singer and Beck collaborator Olivia Safe. May and Safe both feature on the recently released Jeff Beck Tribute EP, which comprises three tracks that had previously only been heard at Beck’s memorial service.
May reads a poem over Midnight Walker Lament – originally released as an instrumental on Beck’s final studio album, 18, recorded with Johnny Depp – while Safe provided guest vocals on a live edition of Elegy For Dunkirk. She had recorded the studio version on 2010’s Emotion & Commotion.