Yesterday (May 22), a huge ensemble of A-list electric guitar heroes converged on London’s iconic Royal Albert Hall for the first of two Jeff Beck tribute concerts.
As previously reported, the event was a who’s who of guitar talent, with the likes of Eric Clapton, Gary Clark Jr., Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, John McLaughlin and many more all coming together to pay tribute to the late guitar great, who passed away earlier this year.
The evening itself was filled with high-profile collaborations, but the biggest of all occurred right at the end of the night when everyone – yes, everyone – squeezed onto the historic stage for an eight-minute jam of Going Down.
If ever there was a competition for the most guitar stars to feature on the same stage, this lineup would stake a strong claim, with all those mentioned above performing alongside Ronnie Wood, Billy Gibbons, Johnny Depp, Doyle Bramhall II and Kirk Hammett, who made a surprise appearance with Greeny.
Outside the guitar department, Jeff Beck band members Rhonda Smith and Anike Niles lead the rhythm section, with Rod Stewart, Imelda May, Olivia Safe and Joss Stone all assuming vocal duties.
Having that many people on stage at once was always going to be a logistical challenge – a fact made clear by the drastic level differences between each player’s guitar.
Having said that, a guitar band of almost 20 players was never going to deliver a super-polished performance of Going Down, but that was never really the goal anyway.
Instead, the participants ensured their eight-minute rendition of Going Down turned out exactly as it should have: a gloriously improvised, larger-than-life guitar jam in honor of one of the most influential guitar players of all time.
Clapton was the de facto conductor of the cover, kicking things off and then conceding the six-string spotlight to his fellow guitar-paying peers for a huge melting pot of solos.
Gary Clark Jr. – with his Gibson ES-335 in tow – took the first 12 bars, followed by a PRS-wielding John McLaughlin, and then a Telecaster-toting Depp, who spent much of last year touring and recording with Beck.
Two solos that especially cut through the mix were the closing efforts offered by Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi. Trucks took the lead, utilizing his Gibson SG for yet another guitar slide masterclass, while Tedeschi went to town on her Tele for 12 bars of bend-heavy blues.
It proved to be a poignant ending to a marathon show, which had been prefaced by an emotional Clapton who told the crowd, “I wish he were here.”
The cover of Going Down was just one of numerous tracks performed by the assortment of guitar heroes in honor of Beck.
Highlights from the setlist included McLaughlin joining Smith and Niles for a cover of You Know You Know – a Mahavishnu Orchestra track that Beck played live – Depp, Hammett and Gibbons teaming up to perform Isolation, and Clapton sharing the stage with Trucks and Tedeschi for The Sky is Crying.
The second and final Jeff Beck tribute show is set to take place tonight (May 23) at the Royal Albert Hall.