Inspiring outings by Jeff Beck and Buddy Guy at Starlight Theatre on Friday revealed that the legendary guitarists are improving with age. Rather than betraying any signs of fragility, Beck, 72, and Guy, 80, played with the ferocious intensity of angry young men.
Guy reminisced about his humble origins in Louisiana during his thrilling opening set.
“I grew up on a farm so poor I didn’t know what running water was until I was 17 years old,” he said.
The renowned showman who remains one of Chicago’s most notable blues artists strolled through the audience of about 3,000 during the bawdy “Someone Else Is Steppin’ In (Slippin’ Out, Slippin’ In).” His adolescent shenanigans included lurid pelvic thrusts that would have embarrassed Elvis Presley and ribald insinuations that caused him to resemble an overwrought teenager as he sang about a romantic encounter during “She’s Nineteen Years Old.”
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His guitar playing was just as lusty. Backed by a four-piece band, Guy exhibited reckless abandon. Jagged and mean-spirited, his deliberately dissonant guitar sounded like a mud-coated chainsaw on “Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues.”
While Guy spent an hour reveling in the limitless possibilities of the blues, Beck touched on a multitude of styles in his 90-minute headlining set.
Since becoming an international star 50 years ago when he replaced Eric Clapton in the Yardbirds, the British guitarist has explored an astounding variety of genres with an insistent restlessness that continues to perplex many observers.
Beck acknowledged the stylistic whiplash by suggesting that the thunderous interpretation of his 1966 single “Beck’s Bolero” that followed the melancholy lament “Scared For the Children” represented “a complete change of underwear.”
Beck’s astonishing guitar work connected the rock, blues, jazz and soul songs he performed with five backing musicians. Even on selections that were specifically designed to showcase his talent, Beck was never overly indulgent. His tender translation of “Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers” was as technically adept and as emotionally resonant as an Itzhak Perlman violin solo on a Brahms concerto.
A third of Beck’s show was devoted to selections from the abrasive new album “Loud Hailer.” Rosie Bones simulated a yell leader in the Occupy Wall Street movement as she delivered the scathing lyrics of “The Revolution Will Be Televised.” Beck’s contributions to the punk-tinged material were just as captivating as his re-creations of jazz fusion classics including “Freeway Jam.”
Like Guy, Beck played like an fully engaged man with years of provocative music ahead of him.
Jeff Beck set list
The Revolution Will Be Televised; Freeway Jam; Lonnie on the Move; Live in the Dark; The Ballad of the Jersey Wives; You Know, You Know; Morning Dew (Bonnie Dobson cover); A Change Is Gonna Come; Big Block; Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers; O.I.L. (Can’t Get Enough of That Sticky); Scared for the Children; Beck’s Bolero; Rollin’ and Tumblin’; Superstition; Right Now; Little Brown Bird; A Day in the Life
Buddy Guy set list
Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues; Five Long Years; I Just Want to Make Love to You; Hoochie Coochie Man; Someone Else Is Steppin’ In (Slippin’ Out, Slippin’ In); She’s Nineteen Years Old; Voodoo Child (Slight Return)