Originally published in Guitar World, September 2010
The legendary guitar hero honors the memory of Les Paul with two celebrity-packed shows at New York's Iridium jazz club.
In what will undoubtedly go down as one of the coolest guitar events of 2010, Jeff Beck recently paid homage to the late six-string giant Les Paul in two intimate shows at the famous Iridium Jazz Club in New York. Billed as “A Celebration of Les Paul,” the shows, held on June 8 and 9, featured Beck blazing through Paul’s greatest hits and a number of rockabilly standards, including “Rock Around the Clock” and “The Girl Can’t Help It.”
The audience on both nights was packed with a who’s-who of guitar superstars, including Steve Miller, Kirk Hammett, Zakk Wylde, Eric Johnson, Ace Frehley, Warren Haynes and Steven Van Zandt, as El-Becko wowed and dazzled with his spiky renditions of Elvis Presley’s “Baby Let’s Play House” and a gut-wrenching, bluesy workout of the Shangri-Las’ “Remember (Walking in the Sand).”
For both shows, the energetic and crowd-pleasing Imelda May Band backed Beck, who, in the retro spirit of the events, donned a flashy blue outfit that mimicked Fifties rocker Gene Vincent. The British guitarist played a battery of guitars that accurately recreated the sound of rock and roll’s golden era including a 1956 Gretsch Duo Jet, a stunning sunburst Les Paul and a butterscotch Telecaster that he deployed on a faithful version of the Johnny Burnette’s version of “Train Kept-A Rollin’.” Both shows also featured special guests, most notably rockabilly guitar virtuoso Brian Setzer, who sang and traded solos with Beck on scorching renditions of “Twenty Flight Rock” and “Shake, Rattle and Roll.”
Prior to the start of the first night’s show, Beck gave Les Paul’s son, Russ, a plaque that will hang in the Iridium, which was the location of Paul’s weekly Monday night shows from 1995 up until his death on August 12, 2009. June 9, the date of Beck’s second gig, would have been Paul’s 95th birthday. PBS filmed both shows for a special that is set to air around Christmas, and a DVD release is planned as well.