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Jeff Beck Performing This Week: Live at Ronnie Scotts Jazz Club - A DVD Review
Back last year I was lucky enough to be able to review the latest live offering from one of my most favorite guitarists: Jeff Beck. The album, Performing This Week Live at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club really caused a stir as a pretty incredible listen, a great showcase of the talents of Beck and his latest band, and a great addition to the Jeff Beck catalog, which has been somewhat lacking in live recordings.
I think that album is pretty awesome and you can read my whole review of the album here: Jeff Beck Performing This Week: Live at Ronnie Scotts Jazz Club - A CD Review
At the end of that review I mention that a DVD release of the same set of shows was planned as well, and to keep an eye out for it. Sure enough, at the end of March, said DVD arrived and sure enough I was once again lucky enough to be able to check it out and write a review.
Although the DVD primarily sticks to the same set list as the album, there are a few surprise collaborations included, as well as a few extras.
Here's the track list:
1. Beck's Bolero
2. Eternity's Breath
4. Cause We've Ended As Lovers
5. Behind The Veil
6. You Never Know
8. Blast From The East
9. Led Boots
10. Angel (Footsteps)
11. People Get Ready - with Joss Stone
13. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat / Brush With The Blues
14. Space Boogie
15. Blanket - with Imogen Heap
16. Big Block
17. A Day In The Life
18. Little Brown Bird - with Eric Clapton
19. You Need Love - with Eric Clapton
20. Rollin' And Tumblin' - with Imogen Heap
21. Where Were You
Bonus: Interviews with Jeff Beck and the band about performing at Ronnie Scott's, the music and the event.
As with the album, the songs you'd expect to be highlights certainly are, but seeing the band perform in this space really changes the whole dynamic. Maybe it's because I'm not as well versed in the jazz scene and it's history as I would like, but I didn't realize 1: the importance of Ronnie Scott's, and 2: just how small the venue really is. The intimacy of this set of shows is intense and when combined with the incredible emotional charge that so much of Jeff Beck's music, and especially his guitar playing, has, the impact just skyrockets setting off all sorts of spine tingling moments. Where as at times I felt like the live album, although great, failed to capture some of the magic that can happen at a show, that magic comes through a lot better in this footage. It's obvious that the band is gelling and after the nerves where off, you can really see them having fun and really getting into it, especially Jeff. I can only imagine how great the impact was to actually be in that room seeing it live.
Also, I guess it's because I'm a musician and a guitarist myself, but when great musicians/guitarists play, I like to see as well as hear them actually playing the instrument. Live albums are great, but if I can actually watch what the players play and see how they're coaxing out those tones, I can appreciate the music that music more. That's true of most guitarists for me, but especially with Jeff Beck because he has a level of finesse beyond just about any other guitarist out there. Watching a song like "Angel (Footsteps)" is a good example as he takes the glass slide and just touches the strings up above the end of the fretboard to whisper the melody one octave up... incredible. Then you have a song like "Scatterbrain" where the sheer speed of those fusion jazz licks boggles the mind. Plus on about every song in the set, Jeff shows his soulful touch by manipulating the strings, the vibrato and the volume to make vocal like swells and expression that are beyond light years beyond regular guitar playing.
And it's not just Beck's guitar work that is amazing either. Don't get me wrong, Beck is definitely the center point, but his band awesome too. As a unit they're tight and rock solid, even on the most intertwined melodies, odd timings and explorations into free form jazz. I've mentioned a couple of times how I was very impressed by the band's new young bassist, Tal Wilkenfeld, and she sure does tear it up on bass, as does Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, but it's the keyboardist Jason Rebello who really stood out when I watched this DVD. Beck has always been supported by amazing musicians and his keyboardist collaborators in the past have included the legendary Jan Hammer, so I'm sure for many Rebello has some major shoes to fill. He steps up though and again, watching a great pianist play is something amazing as it seems almost impossible how they play all those notes and chords at once... great keyboard/piano/synth work here.
In addition to the set from the live album, a few other collaborators joined Jeff and company on stage during their stay at Ronnie Scott's and produced some amazing tracks. It seems as if I'm always impressed with Joss Stone's voice and soul, and sure enough "People Get Ready" is a pretty killer track... probably exactly what you'd expect, but Beck's soulful guitar work is a great counterpoint to Stone's vocal prowess. The pair of blues tracks with Clapton are also cool, and the two Yardbirds legends trade guitar licks for a little as well, but neither of these songs is the real full out jam that I would have been floored to see... cool, but not necessarily spectacular. I think the two songs performed with Imogen Heap on the other hand are stellar. The dark, slightly reggae tinged beat of "Blanket" seems to be extra dreamy and surreal with Heap's breathy vocals, and the blues stomp classic, "Rollin' and Tumblin'" is morphed into an almost psychedelic, primal jungle stomp with Imogen adding a unique style and Jeff wailing on wah guitar... great stuff.
With all of these collaborations though I do wish they would have been included on the album version if possible. Still, they're are welcome additions here none the less.
It's also nice to see the additional interviews with Jeff and the band, as I always like to get a little insight into the musician's mind. It would have been nice to see a few more extras, but I'm not really put off when these kinds of releases don't have many... I mean the focus should be on the music, and in this case it is, not on the extras... so any extras are just that to me: extra.
I guess as far as concert DVD's go, Jeff Beck: Performing this Week Live at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club is pretty great and one I'm glad to have in my collection. It captures the atmosphere and some great performances for this unique event with an equally unique artist... captures it even better than the album release does.
If you're a fan of Jeff Beck, I definitely think you should pick up this DVD, or the live album... or both... while if you're not a fan, seeing him wrench jazzy, progressive soul from his guitar in such an intimate concert might just convert you. I'd especially implore anyone who liked the live album to pick up the DVD, and if for some reason you didn't think the album was a little lacking, still check out the DVD as it just might change your mind.
You can find this DVD directly from Amazon here: Performing This Week: Live at Ronnie Scott's
You can also find the live album from Amazon here: Performing This Week...Live At Ronnie Scotts
Oh, and there's also a Blu-ray release wish is supposed to have some more additional material here: Performing This Week: Live at Ronnie Scott's [Blu-ray]