Last fall, Eagle Rock released performing this week…live at Ronnie Scott's, a great live CD from British guitar legend Jeff Beck captured during a week-long residency at the London jazz club.
As good as that CD was, it also provided just a brief enough snapshot of those performances to leave you hungry and wanting more — especially since the stuff left off the CD included a rare jam with fellow guitar legend Eric Clapton. And since Eagle Rock is best known for having a great track record producing live concert DVDs, there just had to be one of those on the way…right?
Fortunately the answer to that question turned out to be yes.
The DVD and Blu-ray editions of Beck's week at Ronnie's arrive in stores March 31, just in time for his induction into the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame. And man, is this some great stuff. For starters, the DVD is about twice as long as the CD, clocking in at some three hours when you figure in the bonus interviews with both the band and with Beck himself.
But what makes this such a keeper is the obvious care that went into both the video and audio presented here. The 5.1 mix addresses and fixes some of the problems with the CD with a more evened-out sound that showcases Beck's great band as much as it does the man himself. 22 year old female bass prodigy Tal Wilkenfeld shines, in particular, but drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and keyboardist Jason Rebello are also given an ample share of the spotlight. Colaiuta looks and sounds particularly impressive on a great cover of Billy Cobham's "Stratus."
But there is equal care given to the video half of the equation here.
You get lots of great shots of the band, and the chemistry between them becomes apparent in ways that the CD only hints at. Beck, a guy who isn't exactly known for his even temperament, is seen grinning like a Cheshire cat throughout, and beaming like a proud dad whenever Wilkenfeld takes a bass solo — which fortunately happens often here. For her own part, Wilkenfeld returns Beck's approval with the wide-eyed grin of a student who knows she's done the master proud.
Best of all though, the camera zooms in on Beck's guitar often, affording the viewer a rare glimpse of those amazing fingering techniques and even a few of those nifty tricks on the trusty whammy bar. On his version of "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," Beck plays like a house o' fire, and the camera catches every note in some great closeup shots. Towards the end, you can also see Robert Plant displaying his approval from the audience.
The other highlights here include tracks with guest vocalists Imogen Heap and Joss Stone. Heap sounds great on her song "Blanket," as well as on a cover of the blues standard "Rollin' And Tumblin'" that appears towards the end of the DVD. Joss Stone also turns in a fine, if slightly pedestrian version of "People Get Ready," taking Rod Stewart's place on vocals for the Beck treatment of the Curtis Mayfield tune.
For his version of Lennon & McCartney's "A Day In The Life," Beck allows his guitar to do the singing, turning the Beatles classic into a plaintive cry during the Lennon parts, and then into a ferocious-sounding wail during the more symphonic portions of the song. Jimmy Page can be seen in the audience in the clip below, which leads me to wonder why he didn't join in during the jam with Eric Clapton that was still to come.
That Clapton jam is unquestionably a highlight, too.
The two former Yardbirds members (Beck replaced Clapton in the legendary Sixties rock group) trade licks note for note on a version of Willie Dixon's "You Need Love" — a song that Dixon needs to collect some royalties from Page and Plant for, by the way. The song bares more than a striking resemblance to Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love." Maybe that's why Page sat the jam out.
Regardless, Beck and Clapton clearly have a great time, and burn the house down in doing so. Clapton in particular hasn't sounded this loose since his Cream days. As the show draws to a close, Beck thanks the crowd, calling his week at Ronnie's "the best of my life." The two guitar greats apparently had such a great time, that there are now rumblings of a Clapton/Beck joint tour in the works.
This is a top notch concert DVD. My only complaint here is that the DVD extras do not include the Beck rockabilly set with the Big Town Playboys that shows up as one of the extras on Blu-ray. One more reason to get one of those fancy-pants players, I guess.
Jeff Beck's performing this week…live at Ronnie Scott's comes out in both DVD and Blu-ray formats on March 31.