Jeff Beck: Performing This Week... Live at Ronnie Scott's


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Jeff Beck
Performing This Week...Live at Ronnie Scott's
Eagle Vision

Not appreciably different, at least in terms of additional quantity of material, this DVD counterpart to the previously released audio CD of Jeff Beck Performing This Week... Live at Ronnie Scott's is nevertheless revelatory on its own terms. And it's not the interviews with the iconoclastic British guitarist, who comes across equally thoughtful and self- effacing (not to mention effusive in his praise of the venue, the audience and the critics) or his band that provides the insights, but the presence of vocalists on two cuts and the collaboration with Eric Clapton on another pair of performances.

Anyone listening to Jeff Beck for any length of time is bound to realize the key to his genius is the way the sound of his guitar replicates all the nuance of the human voice in song. It's more obvious not surprisingly in ballads like Stevie Wonder's "Cause We've Ended as Lovers," but equally so when he plays pedal to the metal on an elemental rocker like "Space Boogie."

Exquisite touches of detail adorn his rhythm playing as well as the fills between the expositions of melody lines. It becomes all the more awe-inspiring to see him play on this video with such seemingly spontaneous abandon: how does he maintain such precise control if not by pure instinct on the harmonic laden closer "Where Were You?" The close-ups director Stuart Watts provides in his video editing illuminate but cannot wholly reveal the mystery intrinsic to Jeff Beck's magnificent style.

The pros and cons of having a singer have plagued Jeff Beck since the days he gave Rod Stewart his big break and made him lead singer for his group back in 1968 and the appearances included here of two vocalists during the Ronnie Scott's run shed some light on the conundrum. Joss Stone is clearly the more prominent name of the two, but on her reading of "People Get Ready" she exhibits just ever so slightly a lack of restraint that's magnified by the bandleader's own self control.

Hearing Imogen Heap on "Blanket," it's understandable why she's worked with the irascible Brit off and on for years. Eschewing physical gesticulation, she never vies too broadly for attention with her voice either, gracefully understating her delivery so that the guitarist can contour his playing to her lines in wholly complementary fashion. Her presence is no less effective—and perhaps more so for its salty sensuality—on "Rollin' and Tumblin.'" Where it becomes notable that, even when playing softly, there is a searing intensity in Beck's guitar.

The duets Beck performs with his contemporary Eric Clapton on two blues numbers exhibit similar contrasts. The simplicity of the latter's playing, his hallmark since the days of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, provides colorful counterpoint with the unpredictable logic of his successor in The Yardbirds back in 1965. Slowhand has learned to be a serviceable singer over the years, but it's less the earth-tones of his patented blues phrasing than the way Jeff Beck uses his bottleneck technique to broaden the spectrum of sound the two fretboardsmen open up between each other. And that's not to speak of the all too appropriate way Beck mimics birdcalls on "Little Brown Bird."

Without undermining their own individual and collective personalities, but rather playing with readily discernible panache, The Jeff Beck Band, including drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, bassist Tal Wilkenfeld and keyboardist Jason Rebello, acquit themselves authoritatively and sympathetically as they support these two icons of their instruments on "You Need Love". Neither Clapton take extends very long, but all the musicians completely dispense with any notion of celebrity and the grandstanding that so often comes with it to proffer a purity of musicianship that has by and large denoted the whole career of Jeff Beck... right up till this day.

Tracks: Beck's Bolero; Eternity's Breath; Stratus; Cause We've Ended As Lovers; Behind The Veil; You Never Know; Nadia; Blast From The East; Led Boots; Angel (Footsteps); People Get Ready—with Joss Stone; Scatterbrain; Goodbye Pork Pie Hat / Brush With The Blues; Space Boogie; Blanket—with Imogen Heap; Big Block; A Day In The Life; Little Brown Bird—with Eric Clapton; You Need Love—with Eric Clapton; Rollin' And Tumblin'—with Imogen Heap; Where Were You.

Personnel: Jeff Beck: electric guitar; Eric Clapton: electric guitar, vocals; Imogen Heap: vocals; Joss Stone: vocals; Vinnie Colaiuta: drums; Jason Rebello: keyboards; Tal Wilkenfeld: bass.

Production Notes: Format: Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, DVD-Video, Live, NTSC. Run Time: 155 minutes. Bonus Features: Interviews with Jeff Beck and band members.Blu-ray Exclusive Material: 7 Track rockabilly set with the Big Town Playboys: Race With The Devil; Crazy Legs;Train Kept A Rollin'; My Baby Left Me; Matchbox; Baby Blue; Honky Tonk. Plus Jeff Beck on the rockabilly set + Big Town Playboys interview

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