Published September 01. 2014 12:08PM Updated September 02. 2014 8:57AM
Editor's Note: This article corrects the title of Stevie Wonder's song from “Superstitious” to “Superstition.”
Mashantucket — For more than an hour Sunday night, websites devoted to synonyms — on all the computers in the world — suffered a bizarre glitch. Any citizen who typed any adjective that conveyed superiority, creative genius or artistic magnificence returned only one response, repeated over and over to signify a quality of absoluteness: JEFF BECK. JEFF BECK. JEFF BECK.
Was it a hacker’s tomfoolery?
Nope, just some sort of mystical and algorithmic cross-circuitry that tech geeks ascribe to the fact that Beck, onstage in the Grand Theater in the Foxwoods Resort Casino, led his magnificent band through 75 minutes of music that was cornucopian in scope, breadth, passion, chops and imagination.
To call it guitar sleight of hand would be accurate but simplistic.
To say Beck is a complete and dazzling original — without question one of the top guitarists ever — is more accurate but still comes nowhere close to describing what he can do.
The show had special circumstances that perhaps added to the majesty of the performance. It was the final night of the tour, for one thing. For another, as originally booked, Beck was going to open a co-headline bill with ZZ Top. Last week, though, when Top bassist Dusty Hill injured his hip, the Texas trio canceled the rest of the tour and Beck chose to soldier on in a solo capacity with an expanded set time.
All good thoughts go out to Hill, but, selfishly, that provided extra Beckery for those of us fortunate to be in the hall Sunday.
Dressed in pinstripe black trousers and a black and silver vest over a gray tank-top, and with the same haircut he sported when he joined the Yardbirds back during the reign of Henry IV, the 70-year-old Beck still looks effortlessly cool. He stood center stage, offering a cryptic grin as his hands fluttered over his Fender guitars, coaxing and charming celestial sounds, scalular runs with the glorious density of iridium, waterfall harmonics, wildfire tremolo howls — and cross-pollinations thereof. Jaw-dropping virtuosity? Of course; he’s Jeff Back.
Of course, this is all in service to the music. In that context, his fellow players — Rhonda Smith (bass), Jonathan Joseph (drums), Nicolas Meier (guitar) and, for about half the set, vocalist Jimmy Hall — performed with joyous and bubbling precision.
The set list mixed material from the latter Beck catalog — typically amalgams of fusion, blues and rock — with his career-long and disbelief-inducing ability to arrange work by other artists. Tunes by Jimi Hendrix (“Little Wing”), the Beatles (“A Day in the Life”), Stevie Wonder (“’Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers” and “Superstition.”), Muddy Waters (“Rollin’ and Tumblin,’” with its staccato double-stop phrase on every third riff) and Billy Cobham (“Spectrum”) were the equivalent of repainting masterpieces in giddy but empathetic, previously unimagined colors.
In support — and during Beck’s “Wild Thing” encore — the young Texas blues-rock guitarist Tyler Bryant showed masterful chops and presence.