This Day in ’68: Rod Stewart Makes His US Live Debut with The Jeff Beck Group
49 years ago today, The Jeff Beck Group performed their first ever show in America, thereby also providing Rod Stewart – who was fronting the band – with his US live debut.
It says something about how early into both Beck’s and Stewart’s careers this momentous occasion took place that their US live debut was as an opening act at Filmore East: they played immediately after a set by Buzzy Linhart’s Seventh Sons and just prior to the evening’s performance by – wait for it – The Grateful Dead.
At 2,700 seats, the venue wasn’t what you’d call massive, but Stewart revealed in his autobiography, Rod, that it was still a major step up from the 200-800 seat venues he’d been playing back in the UK. He also claimed to have been antsy from the awareness that he was “about to perform, for the first time, in a country in which people were allowed to own guns,” and he also admitted to a certain degree of nervousness about the possibility that the audience – whom he presumed would be primarily black, given that they were performing on New York City’s lower east side – would react poorly to the fact that “I was, essentially, a white guy trying to sing like a black guy.”
In fact, he needn’t have worried on any count: not only was the audience full of white, long-haired hippies, but they went over so well that they scored a high-profile rave review from The New York Times. Not a bad welcome to America.