Jeff Beck's eclectic career may not have reached the heights of such British guitar-god contemporaries as Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and David Gilmour, but his guitar wizardry has always been second to none. When Page inducted Beck into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year, he commented on how Beck's playing had gotten so good over the years, that "he leaves us mere mortals…just wondering."
Beck's career took off in 1965 when he was asked to replace Eric Clapton in the Yardbirds. That stint lasted less than two years, and in 1968 he released his first solo album, the blues-rock masterpiece, Truth. Beck-Ola continued in the same vain the following year and both of these albums featured a young Rod Stewart on lead vocals, and Ron Wood on bass and guitar. Wood and Stewart would leave to join the Faces in 1970, and Beck would have to find himself a new band the following year.
I remember first getting turned on to Jeff Beck at an early age via his 1972 Jeff Beck Group album. Although not one of his best albums, it still had a couple of his best performances, including "Ice Cream Cakes", and "Going Down". It sure would have been nice to hear a few more songs from Beck's early pre-fusion years, but, incredulously, "Beck's Bolero" would be the only song performed from that amazing period. How cool would it have been to see Rod and Ronnie join Beck on stage to belt out a few of those old numbers.
Stewart actually surprised Beck onstage last week, and they performed "People Get Ready" and "I Ain't Superstitious" together. It was supposedly their first joint appearance in 25 years. Watch it here on YouTube.
It was Beck's two mid-70s jazz-fusion excursions, Blow By Blow, and Wired, that really cemented his place in the guitar-god hall of fame. If you even know what a guitar looks like, and have never experienced either of these albums, then do so now! It should be the law. The one time I saw Beck play live was back in 1995 when he opened for Santana, and I was blown away by the uniqueness and power of his guitar style.
Beck stopped using a pick years ago and now attacks the guitar strings only with his fingers. This allows him to effortlessly move between delicate jazzy passages and monstrous rock riffs at the drop of a dime. He is able to pick and work the volume knob and whammy bar simultaneously to create these amazing sounds that just should not be able to come from an electric guitar.
Performing This Week…Live At Ronnie Scott's is Jeff Beck's first official concert video release. His only other official live appearance was on Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival 2007 DVD, which is where he first debuted his new band a few months before the Ronnie Scott's gig. And speaking of his band, they are definitely worthy. Veteran drummer extraordinaire, Vinnie Colaiuta, holds down the beat effortlessly, while female bass prodigy Tal Wilkenfeld lays down an impressive groove. Wait until you see this girl play. I actually though she was Beck' s granddaughter when she first walked out on stage at the Crossroads show, but she soon left no doubt that she is the real deal. Keyboard veteran Jason Rebello rounds out this excellent band.
Beck opens the show with "Beck's Bolero", and then works his way through a long and varied catalog, while throwing in several cool surprises along the way. A couple of those surprises come early on when he pays tribute to one of his idols, John McLaughlin, with a short take on "Eternity's Breath", before turning in a jaw-dropping rendition of Billy Cobham's "Stratus", from his famous Spectrum album. If you are not already aware of just how good a drummer Vinnie Colaiuta is, watch him throw down on this one.
From there, they dig right into one of my all-time favorite Beck performances, "Cause We've Ended As Lovers", from Blow By Blow. Wilkenfeld gets to take an extended bass solo here, as Beck grins and blissfully raises his arms in admiration from the sidelines. She is really something special.
I came away a little disappointed with the setlist at first, but that is going to happen with any artist you love, who has such a vast catalog. Sure I would have preferred more from the Jeff Beck Group years, Blow By Blow, and Wired, but let's take a look at what we do get. Joss Stone guests on an excellent performance of "People Get Ready", and then Eric Clapton joins Beck for some spirited renditions of the blues staples, "Little Brown Bird", and "You Need Love", to really launch this thing into the stratosphere.
English singer songwriter Imogen Heap performed two songs with Beck, her own "Blanket", as well as "Rollin' and Tumblin'", which she originally sang on Beck's 2001, electronica-fueled album, You Had It Coming. Although "Blanket" was pleasant enough, I didn't see the point of doing it here. Heap's quirky vocal style (think Björk meets Kate Bush) can be difficult to get used to on a blues classic like "Rollin' and Tumblin'", especially when it followed Clapton's two exceptional performances, but she added another unique flair to the show.
Along with the two Clapton numbers, some other highlights of this DVD were the absolutely sick performances of "Led Boots" and "Scatterbrain", as well as the haunting ballad "Angel (Footsteps)", where Beck turns in some of those most delicate and precise glass slide playing I have ever witnessed. An abbreviated "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" melds perfectly into one of Beck's best original blues songs, "Brush With The Blues", for another show stopper, but the performance that was worth the price of admission alone was his amazing take on the Beatles' classic "A Day In The Life". I will say nothing more than you must see this one to believe it.
The production quality of this DVD is first-rate. Whether you choose between the DTS 5.1 Surround, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, or Dolby stereo tracks you will not be disappointed. I stuck mostly with the DTS mix, and it was exceptionally well-balanced and powerful. The widescreen picture looked nearly flawless and the camera work captured the intimacy of this small club performance perfectly. The director was also smart enough to provide an abundance of close-ups of Beck's fretwork throughout the performance. The only bonus feature included was some interviews with Beck and his band members.
Performing This Week…Live At Ronnie Scott's captures one of the world's greatest guitarists in one of the most intimate settings you will ever see. The club holds only a few hundred people, and the first row of tables were practically touching the small stage. You will really feel like you were there after watching this excellent DVD.
01. Beck's Bolero
02. Eternity's Breath
04. Cause We've Ended As Lovers
06. You Never Know
08. Blast From The East
09. Led Boots
10. Angel (Footsteps)
11. People Get Ready
13. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat/Brush With the Blues
14. Space Boogie
16. Big Block
17. A Day In The Life
18. Little Brown Bird
19. You Need Love
20. Rollin' and Tumblin'
21. Where Were You