Belfast is anything but dull. The city centre oscillates between menace and refurbished high culture. The recently renovated Ulster Hall is a fitting venue for Jeff Beck's first concert in Ireland. The Victorian Hall has played host to some of the finest artists and groups to grace this planet, including Rory Gallagher, Led Zeppelin, The Kinks, and Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green. I'm sitting in the sixth row - centre stage - I give in to nostalgia, and think of some of the great concerts I have experienced at this venue. I visualize the artists', and hear fragments of their music with each beat of my pulse.
After the support act, the absence of a vocalist, I feel, will not be missed when the main act takes to the stage. The auditorium is silent, in semi-darkness, the stage looks larger. I gaze at the red backdrop which creates a sunken world of calm and expectation. The lights dim.
Tonight - a sold-out audience - is treated to an absorbing performance by Jeff and his powerhouse of a band incorporating drummer, Vinnie Colaiuta; keyboardist, Jason Rebello; and bass guitarist, Tal Wilkenfeld. Time to forget the 'Credit Bubble', the Internet, DVDs, CDs, - most fans, music lovers, want to see their musical heroes in the flesh. And there is no substitute for the atmosphere, tension, and emotion, an inspired and engaging band can generate live in concert.
The success of Jeff's recent release - Jeff Beck: Performing This Week - Live At Ronnie Scott's - available on DVD, Blu-Ray and CD; the celebrated performance at the Crossroads Guitar Festival in Chicago, 2007; Jeff's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on 4 April 2009; and new management - Harvey Goldsmith - have helped to invigorate Jeff's career, and standing in the music world.
Tonight, Jeff walks onto the stage dressed in black, with a white scarf draped around his neck, and cradling his cream and white stratocaster. The applause is deafening, heartfelt. I believe Jeff and the band are genuinely taken aback by the warm reception. The band starts the performance with "Becks Bolero" and it is clear the sound balance is excellent, and that each musician is crystal clear in the mix. Somehow, Jeff and his band make the music sound fresh, as if woven for the first time.