Definitive Napa (Wardour-093)
Uptown Theater, Napa, CA – November 1st, 2011
Disc (51:29): Plan B, Stratus, Led Boots, Rice Pudding, MNA Na Eireann, Hammerhead, Corpus Christi Carol, Bass Solo, People Get Ready, You Never Know, Rollin ‘And Tumblin’, Big Block
Disc 2 (49:34): Over The Rainbow, Little Wing, Freeway Jam, Brush With The Blues, A Day In The Life, How High The Moon, I Want To Take You Higher (with Tyler Bryant), Bad Romance, Nessun Dorma
Jeff Beck’s short tour of Canada in mid October ended with two dates in Napa, California on November 1st and 2nd. The Uptown Theater is a beautiful, old, renovated movie house with wonderful acoustics located in the heart of the northern California wine country.
Definitive Napa on Wardour presents an excellent stereo audience recording, much better sounding than the one in current circulation.
“Rice Pudding,” his only reference to the first Jeff Beck Group in the sixties, serves as a bombastic, ninety second introduction to the more serene and melodic “MNA Na Eireann.” The “Women Of Ireland” (the English translation from the Gaelic), sounds surreal in this environment. During the more passionate moments of the piece someone in the audience can faintly be heard saying “yeah!”
Jeff Buckley’s arrangement of “Corpus Christi Carol” is featured on the new album and sounds very nice live. Afterwards Beck introduces Rhonda Smith, who plays a four minute long bass solo. It starts off with funk bass slapping before morphing into a more melodic piece. By the end the entire band joins in, segueing into the instrumental rendition of “People Get Ready.”
Smith provides rough vocals for “Rollin’ And Tumblin’,” the strongest foray into the blues all evening. It sounds wild and out of control, especially compared to the following “Big Block” with its angular guitar melodies.
After “Over The Rainbow” Beck plays a blazing rendition of “Little Wing” using unique chords and opening string voicings. There are many covers of the Hendrix classic, but Beck makes it his own. Drummer Narada Michael Walden sings the vocals.
“My first time here in Napa. You’re very short on grapes. You need more grapes” Beck jokes afterwards. “We’ve been messing around with this old number that I’ve avoided playing for so long … I’m gonna take a chance and play it.” They follow with “Freeway Jam,” one of the identifiable numbers from his mid seventies output. It takes a while to get going (no car horns in the beginning) and sounds rough and unrehearsed. So does “Brush With The Blues.”
The final song of the set is his cover of The Beatles “Day In The Life.”
“You’re so rowdy” Beck jokes when they return for the encores. The four songs all vary in style and mood, showing his versatility and interest of many decades of music. The first is the Les Paul song “How High The Moon,” sounding every bit of the forties as when it was written.
A cover of Sly Stone’s “Let Me Take You Higher” follows. In the middle of the jam Beck calls for 20 year old guitar prodigy Tyler Bryant, who opened for this tour, to join him onstage. They first double their parts before going off on high speed tangents, bringing the funk to a loud, crashing close.
The bizarre cover of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” follows, standing in stark contrast to everything else played and yet sounds strangely appropriate. The final tune of the night is the instrumental cover of Giacomo Puccini’s aria “Nessun Dorma” from Turandot, ending with a loud flourish from the audience.
Definitive Napa is a great sounding document from the latter days of the 2011 Jeff Beck tour. Wardour utilize very simple graphics and use photos from the tour (with Beck in sunglasses) on the artwork.