Jeff Beck and Van Morrison at the O2 Arena
What better way to end a packed weekend of blues, rock and soul than with two British masters of their craft: Jeff Beck and Van Morrison.
Looking every bit the rock star, donning a diamond-encrusted bracelet and shades for much of his electrifying blues-rock set, Jeff Beck more than justified his place among the greatest guitarists of all time on the last day of the UK Blues Fest, showcasing the genre-defying style that has made him the stuff of legend. Steering clear of the microphone, Beck let his instrument and his band do the singing, speaking up only to introduce a surprise rendition of Elvis’s Suspicious Minds, explaining cryptically, “It has special significance for me, in case you were wondering”. Carmen Vandenberg surely made herself one of the coolest musicians of the moment as she kept pace aside the seasoned artist, Jonathan Joseph was ferocious on drums, plus singer Rosie Bones brought some punk passion to her vocals on poignant tracks such as Scared for the Children from new album Loud Hailer.
The recently knighted Sir Van Morrison then took the audience back to blues basics with his cluster of musicians and a still-astounding voice, flecked with his playing of the sax and harmonica. Dipping into his vast back catalogue in his trademark trilby and shades, “Van the man” delivered a beautiful reinterpretation of Have I told you lately… as well as Magic Time, Cleaning Windows and Moondance, finishing up on a blistering Gloria. He also introduced the spectators to track Every Time I See a River from new album Keep Me Singing, the 36th record to come from one of the world’s most prolific musicians. This was a characteristically enigmatic performance but what it perhaps passed over in terms of crowd pleasing (Brown-Eyed Girl being a notable absence) was made up for in his unwavering fixation on the music, only briefly interrupted when the concertgoers were momentarily booted into action by Muddy Water’s Baby, Please Don’t Go. Cracking a gentle smile he asked, “Why do you like this one so much?”.
There was an intensity to Morrison’s bluesed-up set that would have been far more at home in a cosy Soho bar, its wistful rhythms and intimate charm were simply less accessible in the giant space of the O2 Arena. But as he disappeared from the stage with his final “G-L-O-R-I-A” still lingering in the air, there was no doubting this was very much the same musical visionary that has delighted and moved audiences persistently over the last five decades.
The Northern Irish songwriter may have failed to get his Sunday night crowd up and dancing but he proved his transcendental style and sublimely soulful voice still have much to offer with this masterclass in blues.
Photos: Nick Bennett
For further information about Van Morrison and future events visit here.
For further information about Jeff Beck and future events visit here.
Watch the video for Van Morrison’s Too Late here:
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