The legendary Paul played there every Monday night until his death last August, so it was an appropriate place for a celebration on the night he would have turned 95.
The small basement club was packed with an invitation-only crowd that included a who’s who of rock music. Meat Loaf, Little Steven Van Zandt, Zakk Wylde, Metallica’s Kirk Hammett and many others visibly enjoyed the nearly two-hour set.
The Imelda May Band, a rockabilly quartet from Dublin, backed Beck onstage. May, and her guitarist husband, Darrel Higham, shared most of the night’s vocal duties. She periodically left the stage, especially during the many instrumental numbers. Brian Setzer also came out to sing during two songs, including the finale.
Midway through the show, May and Beck covered a block of songs made famous by Paul and Mary Ford, including “How High the Moon,” ‘‘Vaya con Dios” and “The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise.” Before embarking on the homage, May explained that she prerecorded her voice for backing vocals, just as Ford did when she recorded them many years ago.
Outside of the tribute, Beck covered scorching versions of “Walking in the Sand,” ‘‘Sleepwalk” and “The Peter Gunn Theme.” The last featured 24-year-old New Orleans phenom Trombone Shorty in the horn section. Beck also played the Yardbirds classic, “Train Kept A-Rollin,” a song he covered in the 1960s. The set ended with Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock” and “Shake, Rattle, and Roll.”
After the show, Meat Loaf said he was blown away by Beck’s guitar playing.
“How does he do it,” he pondered. “His playing comes from a place in the heart that exists in so few people. It’s like the performance by that guy in the Godfather II (John Cazale) and how he overshadowed Al Pacino.”
Van Zandt, the E Street Band guitarist, was equally enthralled.
“The best show I ever seen in my life. I’m not kidding. Absolutely phenomenal,” he said.
Metallica’s Hammett, who considers Beck one of his idols, said: “He does everything with a smile while you’re asking yourself, ‘How the hell does he do that?”
Former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley and Black Label Society’s Wylde both summed the show up as “awesome.”
The performance was filmed for PBS special later this year as well as a DVD.