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A Tribute to Jeff Beck

23 May 2023

Last night for a capacity crowd at London's Royal Albert Hall, Eric Clapton led a tribute show in memory of close friend, musical collaborator, and fellow guitar legend, Jeff Beck. The evening began with Beck's Olympic White Stratocaster spotlit at the centre of the stage as the crowd took their seats. 
The show's first numbers were performed by Clapton with Doyle Bramhall II on guitar, Chris Stainton on keyboards and Nathan East on bass. Opening numbers included the Yardbirds' 'Shapes of Things' before Susan Tedeschi joined the group for an incredible rendition of 'The Sky is Crying.' Clapton said Elmore James' songs had been inspirational to himself and Beck as young guitarists learning their trade. 
Next up was John McLaughlin, who wrote the foreword to Jeff Beck's memoir BECK01. McLaughlin said simply, "We are here for two things: love and the guitar. We all loved Jeff Beck, and on the guitar, he was a killer." McLaughlin played a Mahavishnu Orchestra track that he and Beck played together, 'You Know You Know', backed by his friend's former bandmates, Rhonda Smith and Anike Niles. Ronnie Wood then joined the lineup for a soaring performance of 'Beck's Bolero' and later swapped out his guitar for bass, reminiscent of his early days in the rhythm section of the Jeff Beck Group.  
When Johnny Depp took the stage, it was to perform the John Lennon song, 'Isolation', that he and Jeff Beck recently covered during lockdown. This time he was backed by ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons with Metallica's Kirk Hammett, who served up a blistering guitar solo. For the Yardbirds' 'Train Kept a Rollin', Hammett was seen playing the late Peter Green's iconic 'Greeny' Les Paul, putting the vintage guitar through its paces as Imelda May sang lead vocals. 
Other notable performances included Robert Randolph's haunting lap steel playing, Beck's operatic 'Elegy for Dunkirk' with classical singer Olivia Safe on vocals, and an impassioned rendering of 'I Put a Spell on You' sung by Joss Stone, which won her a standing ovation.  
Rod Stewart's arrival marked a turning point in the show. Stewart said he never thought he'd be at a tribute show for Jeff. "But we're here and we're gonna do him proud," he said, before upping the tempo with 'Infatuation' - his 1984 hit featuring Beck on guitar. The Curtis Mayfield ballad 'People Get Ready' was covered by Stewart and Beck in 1985, and now saw Stewart and Gary Clark Jnr trading harmonies and soulful guitar licks. 
In an epic finale, the show's singers and nearly 20 guitarists packed the stage for the closing number, Freddie King's 'Going Down'. As the concert ended and the performers took their final bow, the new music video for 'Moon River' - recorded by Clapton and Beck last year and due for release in July - was projected on screen. Clapton and many of the musicians stayed on stage to listen and watch the animated movie, which features images of Beck and Clapton together.
Watch the new music video for 'Moon River' below:

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